Fires erupt in more Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt as authorities still deny any foul play
Fires broke out on Sunday in two churches annexed to monasteries in southern Egypt, with another fire breaking out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, amid official denial of foul play, state-run Ahram online newspaper reported, citing the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Centre.
The two fires that erupted in the southern Egyptian Asyut and Minya provinces were extinguished with no casualties. the report added. The Asyut fire was put out by firefighters, also with no causalities, Asyut governor Essam Saad said in a statement.
The fire started in a garbage pile near the wall of the monastery's residential buildings, the governor added.
The fire was under the control of the local fire department Saad noted, and he urged the media not to publish unofficial statements regarding the incident to avoid sparking fears among citizens.
Photos published by local media showed huge flames and smoke around, outside and inside the three churches.
Social media activists shared online videos of the blazes showing huge losses inflicted on the churches.
Later in the day, a fire erupted in a church in Alexandria, leaving one man injured. No further details were immediately available.
Preliminary findings released by the state indicate that both the Alexandria and Minya fires were caused by "electrical faults".
No official statements have been released so far by the prosecution-general, the interior ministry or the official spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the new fires.
The fires coincided with the celebrations of the Assumption of Mother Mary to Heaven amid huge gatherings of Copts.
Earlier last week, similar fires erupted in three Egyptian churches, one in Minya and two in Giza province west of Cairo.
The first blaze that broke out in the working class Imbaba neighbourhood in Giza claimed the lives of 41 worshipers, including 15 children and the church priest.
Meanwhile, Bishop Ermia, a member of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, did not rule out foul play in contrast to the authorities' official narrative.
"[The fires at churches] occurred systematically…..this is an alarm to the state. We need to join forces to be able to surpass this crisis. I don't talk about the economic crisis and the rising prices. We all suffer in this world," he said. "But when the country loses its lovers and those who backed it[the Copts], this is a dangerous start of further hazardous issues. This must be stopped. This should be investigated."
"What I worry about…is the timings when these incidents take place," the bishop added.
Egyptian Christians are known for being supporters of the regime of Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. They make up approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the 103 million population of Muslim-majority Egypt; most of them are Coptic Orthodox. They are among the world's oldest Christian communities.