May 11, 2004
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- A police officer in El Minia, Egypt, drove a truck into a canal killing three of his five bound prisoners, including an elderly church leader, according to a report from the U.K-based Barnabas Fund.
The Barnabas Fund reported the police officer arrested five Christians in the early hours of Sunday May 2 in the village of Taha El Omadeen, El Minia. Sixty-four year old Father Ibrahim Mikhaeil and four others were charged with the unlawful construction of a church fence. Part of the fence had collapsed during a storm and the five men attempted to mend it as soon as possible, concerned that, given the opportunity, local officials would stall and possibly halt its rebuilding. Obstruction and the refusal to grant permits for church repairs is a recurring problem in Egypt.
The officer, named Ahmed Kelani, went to the church at 1 a.m. after a Muslim villager informed the police station of the efforts of the five men to repair the fence. The arrested men were bound and placed in the back of a rented vehicle. Officer Kelani ordered the vehicle's driver to get out and took control of the truck himself. As the vehicle approached the brink of the Ibrahimiya Canal, Kelani jumped out.
Father Mikhaeil and two other Christians (Mahrous and Nasef) were killed, while the other two remain in a critical condition in hospital. Abuse of Christians by local police officers is not uncommon, but the shocking news of these killings has caused an uproar among the local Christian community. The Egyptian media have reported the event as an accident but Christian sources confirm that it was deliberately arranged.
Further details, quotes and photos on this and other stories may be available for news editors on request to Barnabas Fund.
Barnabas Fund works to support Christian communities mainly, but not exclusively, in the Islamic world where they are facing poverty and persecution.