Religious motive still unclear; local government to investigate attack.
ISTANBUL, May 2 (Compass Direct News) -- An Egyptian and three Sudanese Christians were killed last week when their truck came under gunfire after holding an evangelistic meeting in Sudanâ€™s Nuba Mountains region.
Egyptian Daniel Girgis, 37, and local Sudanese Christians Markous Tiya, Rihab Kafi Jadeen and an unidentified young boy were killed when unknown assailants opened fire on their vehicle last Friday night (April 27).
At least five others, two foreigners and three Sudanese, were injured in the attack that began when the truck driver refused to stop at a makeshift roadblock of large rocks.
The vehicle was returning to the town of Torogi, 70 kilometers south of Kadugli, at around 10:30 p.m. carrying 14 foreign Christians, as well as several local Sudanese believers. Organized by the Bahry Evangelical Church in Khartoum North, the evangelism team had spent the previous week in central Sudanâ€™s Nuba Mountains on one of the churchâ€™s bi-annual outreach projects.
â€œWhen they finished [showing] the Jesus film [in the village of Gnaya] they were going back to the town they were visiting,â€ Barnaba Timothous, evangelism coordinator at the Bahry Evangelical Church, told Compass. â€œOn their way there, someone behind the mountain fired at them. It was night, they saw just two men.â€
Religious Motive or Robbery?
Though the motive for the attack remains unclear, Timothous said he suspects it was caused by Muslims who were unhappy that Christians were doing evangelism in the area.
â€œThe main thing is that there are some chiefs there who are Muslims, who are against the church,â€ Timothous said. â€œThey donâ€™t want the church to be built there. They donâ€™t want Christianity to grow up there.â€
But another Christian in Khartoum who helped organize the trip maintained that the attack was a simple robbery gone awry.
â€œIt might have been something more than that, but you canâ€™t say that unless you have evidence,â€ the Christian told Compass. â€œSo we assume it was probably robbery.â€
Al-Tahir Kodi, the truckâ€™s driver, said that it had been too dark for him to see anyone and he had no way of knowing whether his attackers were Muslim.
â€œWe will not accuse anyone until we know who they were,â€ he said, talking by telephone from Khartoum. He also said he had heard of an incident five days before the attack, in which masked gunmen looted a bus east of Torogi in an area called Tolodi.
But two sources in Khartoum independently told Compass that roadside ambushes in the region are rare, causing them to question whether robbery was the real motive.
â€œThis is the first [ambush] since the ending of the war two or three years ago that Iâ€™ve heard of happening in the Nuba Mountains,â€ one source said. â€œSo the motive is certainly still in question.â€
Timothous said that the government in South Kordofan State had formed a committee to investigate the attack. The committee has yet to report its findings.
â€œWe havenâ€™t had any updates,â€ one Christian source said. â€œOn Sunday four officials from the Nuba Mountains government, two Christians and two Muslims, came to the church in Bahry, expressed their condolences and assured us that they would get the people who did it.â€
Though of Egyptian nationality, Girgis was living in Khartoum and attending the Bahry Evangelical Church in Khartoum North. The three Sudanese killed, as well as three others injured, were Nuba Mountains residents from Gnaya and Torogi, Bahry church pastor Hafis Fasaha told Compass.
Two foreigners injured in the attack, a man and a woman who requested anonymity, are receiving medical treatment in a private home in Khartoum. The man was shot near the ankle while both of the womanâ€™s legs were pierced by a bullet near the hips.
The foreigners flew back to Khartoum from Kadugli on Saturday morning (April 28), where they received post-trauma counseling and medical treatment. Girgisâ€™ body was flown to Cairo later that day.
â€œFortunately, the bullet didnâ€™t hit a bone,â€ a source close to the injured woman said. â€œShe took her first steps yesterday, and theyâ€™re keeping the wound clean and bandaged. Sheâ€™s still in a lot of pain and hoping it will heal up in the next few weeks.â€
The source said the foreigners plan to leave Sudan within the next week. According to Dr. Dawood Bashir, the three injured Sudanese injured are still receiving medical treatment in a Kadugli hospital.
Bashir told Compass from Kadugli that Philemon Kuku Tiya, 27, Ibrahim Karaka Tiya, 35, and Nimat Tutu Gasmim, 11, were all recovering well.
â€œAll the people of the church are paying visits to them and encouraging them,â€ Bashir said. Gasmimâ€™s pelvis had been damaged by a bullet the doctor said, and she had undergone surgery and a blood transfusion.
Bashir was unable to confirm the exact ages of the three dead Sudanese Christians but identified Safi as being in his late 20s and Jadeen as approximately 19. He said the dead boy was approximately 12 years old.
Christians in Sudanâ€™s Nuba Mountains region have reported low levels of ongoing harassment from Muslim tribal leaders since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the countryâ€™s civil war in January 2005. Christians in the town of Shatt Damam were forced to rebuild their church repeatedly after it was burned down three times in 2005.
A congregation in the village of Katcha told visitors that the town imam verbally abuses them over the mosque loudspeaker and that the townâ€™s Muslim chief built a house on church property, claiming it belonged to his forefathers.
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