CAIRO: Thousands turned out for the funeral of four Copts gunned down outside a church, in the first attack on Christians in Cairo since the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president.
Priests carrying large wooden crosses made their way into the packed Church of the Virgin in Cairo’s working class neighborhood of Al-Warrak, a day after gunmen opened fire on a wedding party there.
Angry mourners chanted for justice and vowed to defend the cross amid chaotic scenes as the coffins were carried in for the service.
Two girls aged eight and 12 were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, officials said.
The four victims belonged to one family, according to relatives. Seventeen others were wounded the attack.
“It is unfair that we were killed in the house of God,” said Eid Fayez, 42.
Witnesses recounted how celebrations quickly turned into horror as the attackers sped towards the wedding party on a motorbike, sprayed the crowd with bullets and fled.
“This isn’t acceptable in any religion,” cried Layla Ezzat, a survivor who like many others returned to the scene of the attack to grieve.
Ayman Moussa said there had been no security at the church since June, despite several attacks against Copts around the country in the wake of President Mohamed Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the army.
The community was left reeling by the attack.
“We as Copts are paying the price of Morsi’s ouster. We are targeted. We no longer feel safe anywhere,” said Iman Girguis, 40.
The interior ministry listed two attackers but some witnesses spoke of three.
Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi condemned the attack, calling it a “despicable criminal act,” and said security forces were searching for the assailants.
“Such terrible acts will not succeed in dividing Muslims and Christians,” he said in a statement.
Egyptian Christians, the majority of whom are Copts, have been targeted since Morsi was swept out of power by the army amid mass protests against his year-long rule, and in particular since an August 14 crackdown by security forces on two Cairo camps of his supporters.