One Killed in Egypt Army Raid on Children Centre

Thursday, January 8, 2004

As protesters protect Christian institution for handicapped kids

By Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- One employee was killed and about eight others, including a nun, wounded when the Egyptian army attacked a Christian centre for mentally and physically handicapped children and orphans early Monday, January 5, a human rights watch-dogs said.

The Barnabas Fund, claimed the casualties were a result of a military operation involving 500 Egyptian soldiers who "descended upon the Patmos Christian Centre," 30 kilometers east of the capital Cairo, "accompanied by two bulldozers."

In a statement to ASSIST News Service (ANS) the organization stressed the troops "blocked the entrance to the compound with a large pile of stones and rubble and then they destroyed seven metres of adjoining wall." The U.S. Copts Association said that soldiers were also seen "setting fire to structures on the premises."

When "those working at the centre rushed out en masse to prevent the army from coming onto their property...soldiers threw stones and bottles at the protesters," added Barnabas Fund, which has close contacts with the centre.


In addition a nun was beaten by angry troops, Barnabas Fund said. During the protests, a bus reportedly ploughed into a crowd who were protecting Bishop Botros who heads the centre. "The Bishop was not among those injured, but one staff member, Kirilos Daoud, was killed," the organization explained.

It reported that seven people were still in hospital, with one listed in a critical condition. "The police have tried to find the bus driver (who drove into the crowd), but the army appears to have taken him away, Barnabas Fund reported.

There was no comment from the Egyptian government, but the U.S. Copts Association quoted army officials as saying the bus driver had simply lost control of his vehicle and denied involvement.

The hour long military operation, was reportedly the ninth and most bloodiest attack against the Patmos Christian Centre, violence some have linked to growing Islamic pressure on Egypt's Christian minority.


Officially soldiers from the local army unit are seeking to destroy the wall supposedly in order to conform to a new law passed in January last year 2003 which requires all buildings to be at least 100 metres from the Cairo-Suez road.

However human rights watchers point out the centre's wall stands 50 metres from the road and was built ten years ago in full accordance with the law at the time, adding that other buildings in the area are much closer to the road, including some 15 mosques.

The Barnabas Fund quoted Church leaders as saying the Minister of Defense, who has been opposed to the centre since 1997, ordered "extreme and conservative Muslim officers" from the local army unit to enforce the law on the Patmos Christian Centre.

The centre has been serving the local community in Egypt for 15 years and is legally registered with the Egyptian authorities. It receives between 500 and 1000 visitors every day, said Barnabas Fund.