‘Hiding from the bullets’ - Egypt Coptic monastery survivors describe bus attack

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The funeral of Coptic Christians killed in an attack on their bus near a monastery in Minya on Friday. (AFP)
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Policemen stand beside the microbus which carried Coptic Christians when gunmen opened fire in Minya. (Reuters)
Updated 07 November 2018
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‘Hiding from the bullets’ - Egypt Coptic monastery survivors describe bus attack

  • Six of the victims in the bus attack came from the Yousef Shehata family
  • Seven year old Mina Basem, who lost his mother, hid under the seats of the bus to avoid the bullets

CAIRO: Survivors from an attack on a convoy of Coptic Christian pilgrims have told Arab News of the horrific moments when extremists opened fire killing seven.

The survivors included 7 year old Mina Basem who lost his mother Reham Milad Yusuf in the attack. His older brother Fadi is recovering from his injuries. 

“We visited the monastery and spent a wonderful time but on our way back we were attacked by two cars who fired on us,” Mina said. “I don’t remember anything after that.”

A member of his family said Mina hid under the bus seats to avoid the bullets.

At the funeral for the victims on Saturday, Mina received condolences for the death of his mother from Bishop Makarios of Minya, and a large number of Egyptian officials who attended.

The attack took place as the buses approached  the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor near Minya on Friday. Daesh admitted carrying out the attack, which also injured 21.

A previous attack at the same location killed 28 people in may 2017.

Policemen stand beside the microbus which carried Coptic Christians when gunmen opened fire in Minya. (Reuters)

The Egyptian Interior Ministry said this week it had killed 19 people in an operation in the desert of Minya province who they said carried out attack.

Six of the victims in the bus attack came from the Yousef Shehata family, including the three brothers Kamal, Nadi and Reza, all aged over 50.

They agreed before the incident to gather their wives and children to participate in the Divine Liturgy at the monastery and then return to their homes in the 6th October area south of Minya. Little did they realize that the trip would be their last.

“Our family has lost six of its sons,” said a family member, who preferred not to be named. “They were all my loved ones, and I do not want anything else from the world than the end to the terrorism that targets all Egyptians and Copts in particular.”

She said the operation that killed those involved has eased the wounds a little bit.

The road to the monastery, now known as the Martyrs Road, is 25 kilometers long. It starts from the western desert road of Assiut to the monastery, which is in the middle of an area of rugged mountains and sand dunes.

The road remains dangerous despite 30 million Egyptian pounds spent improving it. 

Monk Paul Samueli, the monastery’s security chief, condemned blamed government officials and complex procedures that had slowed down “important projects that maintain the security and stability of citizens.”

He said a consulting office for the project had  been moved to the site of the road more than a year ago, but the project to pave and light the road has been slow to get started. 

An expert an author on Coptic affairs, Robier Al-Faris said the road was closed after the attack in May 2017, but it reopened a few months later because the route to the monastery is difficult for children and the elderly people to walk on.

The monastery has a long history of turmoil.

In February 1919, eight attackers managed to sneak into the monastery and severely beat all the monks inside and stole everything from curtains to clothes, according to a report by the“Masr” newspaper.

According to the article, the security forces arrested some of the accused after a few days of the incident.

The monastery was also targeted by the Berber tribes for centuries, Al-Faris said. He said the locatio  in the desert and the small number of monks inside it makes it an easy target to attack, whether its by thieves or terrorists.


Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

For decades, Taftoon bread has been a staple of Kuwaiti dinning tables. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

  • Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other

KUWAIT CITY: Khalil Kamal makes sure he regularly visits Kuwait’s popular Souq Al-Mubarakiya, where he enjoys his favorite kebab meal with onion, rocket and freshly baked Iranian bread.
The smell of the bread wafts through the market as it bakes in a traditional oven at the Al-Walimah restaurant in downtown Kuwait City.
The restaurant’s Iranian baker takes one of the many dough balls lined up in front of him and spreads it over a cushion, using the pad to stick the dough against the inside wall of the clay oven.
Once ready, he uses a long stick to reach in and pull out a steaming rounded loaf, served piping hot to customers.
For decades, Iranian bread — known as taftoon — has been a staple of Kuwaiti breakfast, lunch and dinner tables.
“Iranian bread is the only bread we’ve known since we were born,” 60-year-old Kamal told AFP.
Hassan Abdullah Zachriaa, a Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, opened Al-Walimah in 1996. Its tables are spread across a courtyard, surrounded by wooden columns and entryways.
Zachriaa, in his 70s, said the restaurant puts out between 400 and 500 loaves of Iranian bread a day.
“The big turnout in Kuwait for Iranian bread stems from the fact that for decades, our mothers used to make it at home,” he told AFP.
“We then started to buy it from bakeries and stand in lines to get it fresh and hot in the morning, noon and evening.”
The flat bread is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice, Al-Karaeen, cooked sheep feet, classic chickpea plates, or beans and cooked fish.
Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Taftoon is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice.

• Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

• The bread has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.

• Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100.

Derbas Hussein Al-Zoabi, 81, a customer at Al-Walimah, said many Kuwaitis were raised on Iranian bread.
“Since childhood, Iranians baked bread for us ... and we used to eat it in the morning with milk and ghee” — clarified butter.
Other than at street markets, Kuwaitis can buy Iranian bread from co-ops, where people line up in the early hours of the morning and again in the evening to get the freshly baked goods.
Some bakeries even have designated segregated entryways for men and women.
Some Kuwaitis customise their orders with spreads of sesame, thyme and dates, and many come prepared with cloth bags to keep the bread as fresh as possible on the trip home.
Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100, according to deputy chief of the Union Co-operative Society Khaled Al-Otaibi.
“These bakeries produce 2 million loaves of bread a day to meet the needs of Kuwaitis and residents,” he told AFP.
“They receive fuel and flour at a subsidised price so that bread is available for not more than 20 fils (less than seven cents).”
The price however can go to up to 50 fils depending on the amount and type of additives, including sesame and fennel.
Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.