|The smell of the gas could be recognized on the fourth floor of al-Rai al-Saleh hospital, where doors were firmly closed to prevent the smell from spreading into patients’ rooms.(Photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011)|
Tight security reigned the streets in the Minya Governorate city of Samalout in Upper Egypt after night-long clashes between police and Coptic protestors. The clashes were triggered by the shooting of six Copts late Tuesday evening that left one Copt dead.
At least ten people were injured in clashes that broke out in front of al-Rai al-Saleh hospital in Samalout, where those injured in the shooting were being hospitalized, medical sources said.
Despite the fact that al-Rai al-Saleh hospital has the necessary medical facilities, a high ranking official at the Ministry of Health ordered to transfer five of the injured to Cairo, according to Samir Youssry, vice-president of the hospital.
Two of the five shot–Emily Hanna, 61, and Sabah Senot, 50–remain in a critical condition. “They are old and they were on operated immediately,” said Youssry.
The remaining three–Ehab Kemal and his fiancée Magy Nabil Zaki, along with Zaki’s sister Marianne Nabil Zaki–are in a stable condition, according to Youssry.
Around ten Coptic protestors were injured after police cracked down on the demonstration that was being staged in the hospital’s street.
“Seven are in critical condition. Four of them were badly beaten by the police. Two were having trouble breathing after inhaling tear gas. Another one was in a state of shock,” said Youssry.
A Coptic man who took part in Wednesday’s demonstration and who asked not to be identified for fear of police retaliation said those demonstrating had not intended to stage a protest. “We came to check on the people who were injured and the police violently prevented us from doing so. So, we staged a demonstration to defend our people.”
“I heard an officer calling the soldiers to beat us up,” the man added.
Windows on the fourth floor of the hospital were broken when tear gas was fired at the demonstration next to the hospital. The smell of the gas could be recognized on the fourth floor, where doors were firmly closed to prevent the smell from spreading into patients’ rooms.
A female worker at the hospital cried and shouted “Haram!” (meaning “forbidden”). “We have another celebration in the coming days. You should stay here because there will be another tragedy to cover,” she said.
Copts in the city linked the latest attack with the bombing of the Alexandria church which killed 23 people this New Year’s Eve.
Father Moussa Rafael, a priest at the Church of St. Mark in Samalout, which is adjacent to the hospital, said, “People are resentful. They have everyday evidence that they are targeted and the police deny this.”
“There is a wave of persecution of Copts and nobody is doing anything to stop it. We are confused. Are the police protecting us, or are they collaborating with the groups that are targeting Christians?” asked Rafael, who has been attending investigations carried out by the prosecution office in Samalout.
“Don’t say that the criminal was mentally sick,” he continued. “Marianne Nabil Zaki [one of the injured] said to the prosecutor that the gunman moved to and from his train car, checking faces. Then he said, ‘No God but Allah,’ and started shooting at innocent people. He did it on purpose, not randomly. If it is random you would see Muslims on the list of victims.”