Nag Dawoud, Egypt
Egypt's Copts demand protection
after killings blamed on militants
Note: Although Muslims were killed along with Christians in the reported
attacks, it is clear that this was simply a "side-effect" of the militants'
raids on Christians. The fact that Muslims were killed along with Christians
indicates more about the militants' sloppiness,  cowardice, and general moral
bankruptcy than it does about their religious or political agenda.

CAIRO, Egypt - Under the cover of night, four masked militants emerged from the sugar 
cane fields and entered the small village. They moved from a tailor's shop to a grocery, 
shooting at people inside, and then fired at random in the main street before escaping 
unharmed.

After killing nine Coptic Christians and four Muslims, the same militants shot at a Cairo-
bound train south of the mostly Christian village about an hour later, killing an Egyptian 
woman and wounding six men.

Security officials, who gave this account of Thursday night's killings, blamed Muslim 
militants for what would be one of the biggest attacks since they renewed their fight in 
1992 to overthrow the government.

The attack - the second this month, and the second aimed at the country's Christian 
minority led to calls Friday for greater security in Egypt's south, which is poor and 
traditionally neglected. It was likely to further embarrass the government, which has 
boasted in the past that it has put an end to extremist attacks.

"The terrorism will continue and the killing will continue unless Copts are treated as 
equals in both their rights and duties," said Maurice Sadik, a Coptic activist and lawyer 
who urged the government to increase army and police patrols in the south.

Muslims, too, denounced the attack.

"These acts are against the principles and the spirit of Islam said Maamoun Hodeibi, 
spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic group.

The shooting at Nag Dawoud village near Nag Hamadi, an industrial center 300 miles 
south of Cairo, followed a massacre Feb.12 in which assailants stormed a church charity 
meeting in the south, killing nine people.

Copts, who are descendants of some of the first converts to Christianity, make up about 
10 per-cent of Egypt's 60 million people. Most of the rest are Sunni Muslims.

Militants have attacked Coptic-owned pharmacies and jewelry stores to raise money for 
their rebellion and have targeted Christians as non-believers. Some 1,070 people have 
been killed in the fighting - mostly militants and police.

The recent attacks in the south appear to mark a new stage of Egypt's insurgency, in 
which Islamic militants are weaker to the government but possibly more dangerous to the 
public.

"It's a sign of the failure of previous strategies," said Ibrahim Karawan, a Middle East 
analyst in London.

Karawan said the two attacks in villages largely beyond the government's reach point to 
the militants' weakness, not strength.

Unable to carry out high-profile attacks in Cairo, following a fierce government 
crackdown, they have targeted civilians, "an easy target that requires no preparation," he 
said.

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