By Mary Abdelmassih
Egypt, (AINA) -- A mob of nearly four thousand Muslims has attacked Coptic homes this evening in the village of Soul, Atfif in Helwan Governorate, 30 kilometers from Cairo, and torched the Church of St. Mina and St. George. There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the Church pastor Father Yosha and three deacons who were at church; some say they died in the fire and some say they are being held captive by the Muslims inside the church.
Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. The army, which has been stationed for the last two days in the village of Bromil, 7 kilometers from Soul, initially refused to go into Soul, according to the officer in charge. When the army finally sent three tanks to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was "in order now."
A curfew has been imposed on the 12,000 Christians in the village.
This incident was triggered by a relationship between 40-year-old Copt Ashraf Iskander and a Muslim woman. Yesterday a "reconciliation" meeting was arranged between the relevant Coptic and Muslim families and together with the Muslim elders it was decided that Ashraf Iskander would have to leave the village because Muslims torched his house.
The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family's honor, which led the woman's brother to avenge the death of his father by killing the cousin. The village Muslims blamed the Christians.
The Muslim mob attacked the church, exploding 5-6 gas cylinders inside the church, pulled down the cross and the domes and burnt everything inside. Activist Ramy Kamel of Katibatibia Coptic advocacy called US-based Coptic Hope Sat TV and sent an SOS on behalf of the Copts in Soul village, as they are presently being attacked by the mob. He also said that no one is able to contact the priest and the deacons inside the burning church and there is no answer from their mobile phones.
Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub reported the mob has broken into Coptic homes and has called on Copts to leave the village. "Terrorized Copts have fled and some hid in homes of Muslim neighbors," he added.
Witnesses said the mob chanted "Allahu Akbar" and vowed to conduct their morning prayers on the church plot after razing it.