Misratah – Unknown attackers threw a grenade at a Coptic Orthodox Church in Dafniya a town near Misrata Libya. The attack killed two Egyptian citizens and two others were wounded.
The other two who were wounded are said to be in stable condition according to Pope Timothy Beshara of the Libyan Orthodox Church. The Pope said that the Church’s service center was completely demolished. Libyan politicians and also security officials expressed outrage at the attack. They vowed to increase security at Egyptian churches in Libya.
LANA, the official Libyan news agency, said that the blast took place Saturday. The LANA release said: “Unknown assailants targeted a church building in the town of Dafniya, in Misrata (province), causing the death of two Egyptian citizens and wounding two others.The explosion happened after the mass ended and people were on their way out.”
An Egyptian diplomat in Tripoli confirmed that the church of Mar Girgis (St. George) had been attacked on Saturday but that the Egyptian embassy was informed only the next day. He claimed still not to have exact information about what happened but that the blast was in an annex of the church. Vice-chair of the Misrata council said that an investigation was under way. He said: “Explosives experts will determine what happened in the next few hours or days..The reasons are unknown… if it was intentional the number of casualties would have been higher.” This is a rather astonishing statement that suggests the explosion was an accident before any investigation is even carried out!
The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Kamel Amr, on the other hand has decided that the explosion was not an accident, as even the official Libyan news report indicates, in reporting that the grenade was thrown by unknown assailants. The minister said:
“Egypt is requesting an investigation into the circumstances of the operation and for those responsible to be put on trial.”
Reports say that the were two unknown assailants who had thrown the grenade. The town of Dafniya is on the coast about 30 kilometers west of Misrata a city where former rebels still have a major checkpoint.
As many as 1.5 million Egyptians worked in Libya before Gadaffi was overthrown. Most left during the war but now many are returning. Only three per cent of Libyans are Christians with the vast majority being Muslims. Most Christians in Egypt are expatriates including Europeans and Coptic Christians who are often migrant workers from Egypt. Christians are the largest religious minority.
Islamic extremism is a concern in Libya. Several international agencies and diplomatic missions have been targeted, the most prominent being an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.