By Aurora Ellis
Unknown assailants attacked police officers on Saturday in front of a church in Port Said, leaving four police personnel injured, state-owned Al-Ahram reported.
According to Al-Ahram, the assailants fired birdshot at security forces who were guarding the church in Abu Seifein in a drive-by shooting; however, it is unknown if the target of the attack was the police or the church itself.
Churches, especially, are on high alert since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi in July. Port Said and other major cities across the country have witnessed violent clashes between Morsi supporters, anti-Morsi demonstrators, security forces and residents of various regions.
Many of these clashes led to violent incidents against minorities, including churches and Christian businesses. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, an Egyptian human rights organisation, describes the spike in sectarian attacks against Copts as “unprecedented”.
“There have been some minor assaults on some Christian buildings and belongings,” said Mahmoud Qandil, a resident and activist in Port Said. “A few weeks ago a priest from the main church had his car attacked by sticks and stones because there was a cross inside of it.”
However, Qandil added that he did not believe Saturday’s attack on the police was a sectarian one but was intended to target the police. He claimed there is much hostility against both the security forces and Muslim Brotherhood in Port Said since the deadly clashes in January between the family members of prison detainees and the security forces of former President Mohamed Morsi’s government, leaving many in the city unsympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and the security forces.
Despite this there have been reports of sectarian violence in Port Said. Last year, police arrested a man accused of participating in a shooting at the Mar Girgis Church in Port Said last year, in which two were killed.
And as recently as Friday, masked militants riding a motorbike shot and killed an army conscript and injured three soldiers near a checkpoint in the El-Gamarek area of Port Said, according to the army spokesman’s office.