Nag Hammadi Massacre
LocationNag Hammadi, Egypt
Date6 January 2010
TargetCoptic Christians
Attack type
Deaths9 in the attack
2 in associated attacks
PerpetratorsMuslim gunmen

The Nag Hammadi massacre was a massacre of Coptic Christians carried out on the eve of 7 January 2010, in the Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi. The massacre occurred at the hands of Muslim gunmen in front of the Nag Hammadi cathedral, as Coptic Christians were leaving the church after celebrating the midnight Christmas Divine Liturgy. The massacre resulted in the murder of eight Copts and one Muslim bystander.[1][2] Nine other Copts were confirmed to be wounded, and two Muslims were reportedly wounded in the attack.[3] Egypt's Interior Ministry said it suspected the attack was motivated by the alleged rape by a Christian of a Muslim girl.[4]

The Nag Hammadi massacre gained widespread international attention, and was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI,[5] Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel,[6][7] Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini,[8][9][10] and Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon.[11][12] The massacre was one of the most serious outbreaks of anti-Christian violence in Egypt, and the worst since the murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Kosheh in January 2000.


Coptic Christians form the largest religious minority in Egypt, and represent between 15% and 20% of a population of over 100 million Egyptians. Estimates of the size of Egypt's Christian population vary from the low government figures of 6 to 7 million to the 15 to 19 million reported by Christian leaders,[13][14][15][16] though estimates vary (see Religion in Egypt). The Coptic community has been targeted by terrorism throughout the past by Islamic extremists, and has faced varying degrees of discriminatory government policies, such as restrictions on building churches and a school curriculum focused on Islam.[17] Since the 1970s, the rise of Islamist movements in Egypt has led to sectarian violence. Disputes over land and inter-faith relationships have sometimes split communities along religious lines, and civil rights groups have criticized local authorities' handling of such cases. Police have been accused of delaying their response to reports of fighting and then simply arresting more Christians than Muslims. Criminal investigations are occasionally discontinued in favor of informal reconciliation meetings.[17][18][19] Other forms of anti-Christian discrimination in Egypt include discrimination in hiring in the public sector and staff appointments to public universities, prohibition from studying at Al-Azhar University (a publicly funded institution with approximately half a million students), and barring from certain jobs such as Arabic language teachers.[20]


Bishop Kyrillos (Cyril), the Coptic Orthodox bishop of Nag Hammadi, had warned the Egyptian police that there had been threats in the days leading up to the Christmas Eve liturgy. For this reason, he decided to end his liturgyl one hour earlier than normal. He told the Associated Press that, for days, he had expected something to happen on Christmas Eve. He said he left the church minutes before the attack, and had to take the back door when a suspiciously driven car swerved near him. Seconds later he heard the mayhem and machine-gun fire.[21]

As the Christian worshipers were leaving the Nag Hammadi Cathedral after the Christmas Eve Divine Liturgy, a car pulled up and gunfire was sprayed into the crowd. As a result, eight Copts, all aged between 15 and 23, were killed. Six died immediately, while two more died the following day from severe wounds.[22][23] One Muslim bystander was also killed in the attack.[3][24] Nine other Copts were confirmed wounded, and two Muslims were reportedly wounded in the attack.


On 8 January 2010, three men from the Berber tribe of Al-Hawara were arrested and charged with premeditated murder in association with the Nag Hammadi massacre.[25] The three accused were Mohamed Ahmed Hassanein, more commonly known as Hamam el-Kamouny, Qurshi Abul Haggag and Hendawi Sayyed. The trial opened on 13 February 2010. Despite initially confessing to the police, they pleaded not guilty to the charges of premeditated murder, putting lives of citizens at risk, and damaging property.[26] The Supreme State Security Court adjourned the trial until 20 March 2010, and the trial was subsequently delayed twelve times. The accused men appeared in court for the final verdict on 16 January 2011. El-Kamouny received a death sentence for the "premeditated murder" of seven people, as well as for the "attempted murder" of the nine others who were wounded.[27] The other two defendants were sentenced on 20 February 2011.[28]


Egyptian officials suspected that the shooting may have been "in revenge for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl from the Berber tribe of Al-Hawara by a Coptic man" in the nearby town of Farshout in November, which at the time led to five days of riots and attacks on Christian businesses and properties in Upper Egypt.[3] A man was arrested and charged with the alleged rape on 21 November 2009.[29][25]

Egyptian reaction

Following the Nag Hammadi massacre and the associated attacks, the Egyptian police raided the homes of Coptic Christian families in Nag Hammadi on 10 January 2010, and arrested 22 young Copts, most of whom were teenagers. These Copts were detained at the Nag Hammadi police station for a few days, then transferred to jail in the isolated New Valley Governorate. None of the arrested Copts was ever formally charged with any crime.[23]

It was not until two weeks after the massacre that President Hosni Mubarak made his first remarks directly condemning what happened. He stated that "The criminal act in Nag Hammadi has made the hearts of Egyptians bleed, whether Copts or Muslims".[19]

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemned the attack, stating that despite warnings by local church authorities of possible violence during the Coptic holiday, police had not increased security for Christmas.[19]

On 9 January 2010, hundreds of people in Cairo demonstrated, carrying placards condemning "the shocking silence of the authorities" and stating "We are All Copts". On the same day, Egyptian police arrested 20 people who demonstrated in the town of Bahgura against the Nag Hammadi massacre.[18]

On 15 January, 29 Egyptian human rights activists, bloggers, and members of political parties visited Nag Hammadi in order to show solidarity with the Coptic community against the recent attacks on Coptic civilians. All 29 activists were arrested by Egyptian police while on their way to pay their condolences to the families of the victims. The group included prominent activists such as Wael Abbas, members of 6 April Youth Movement, and members of the Democratic Front Party. The group included eight women, one of whom was a French citizen. The activists were detained and interrogated by the prosecutor of the Qena Governorate. A number of them were charged with demonstrating illegally, chanting slogans against the state, and causing disorder. Group members denied these allegations, stating that Egyptian police arrested them when they arrived at the train station, and that the group had not had time to engage in any activities.[18][30]

International reaction

The Nag Hammadi massacre gained widespread international attention, and was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI,[5] Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel,[6][7] Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini,[8][9][10] and Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon.[11][12]

The actions of the Egyptian government in the aftermath of the crime were also strongly condemned by Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. "The Egyptian authorities should be focusing on the causes of the tragic shooting of six Coptic Christians," she stated. "Instead, they're arresting activists whose efforts to express their condolences is an important step toward healing sectarian fractures."[18][30]

See also


  1. ^ Al-Ahram newspaper mentions that the sole Muslim victim was killed at the outskirts of the city while riding a taxi with some of his Christian friends "قتل أيمن المسلم بجوار رفيق المسيحي في سيارة تاكسي علي حدود المدينة. المصادفة قادت رفيق ومينا إلي سيارة أجرة, يقودها أسامة محمد عبد اللطيف' أمين شرطة بمركز نجع حمادي يعمل علي تحسين أحواله المعيشية, فمرتبات الحكومة هزيلة لا تسمن ولا تغني من جوع..ثم تقابلا مع سامح صلاح شقيق سوزان, وأيمن حامد هاشم, وأخذوا التاكسي يتجولون به ليلة العيد. عاد من شغله في السابعة مساء, ثم اغتسل وخرج..وقابل رفيق في العاشرة..وماتا معا برصاصات بلطجي لا يعرف ربنا!" Archived 29 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ El Fagr newspaper stated that the Muslim victim, who was also the guard of the church, was not on duty when he was killed. He had finished his duty at 7:00pm, gone home to change, then went out with some of his Christian friends "لم يكن المجند أيمن حامد الحارس المسلم لكنيسة نجع حمادي والذي قتل برصاص الكموني ورفاقه في ساعة عمل، كان قد أنهي ورديته في الحراسة الساعة السابعة مساء ليلة العيد، وخرج مع بعض أصدقائه الأقباط - من الطبيعي أن يصاحب شبابا قبطيا فهو حارس كنيستهم - قضي ساعة مع أصدقائه في بهجورة، ثم عاد إلي نجع حمادي لينتظر أصدقاءه حتي يخرجوا من قداس العيد ليكملوا سهرتهم."
  3. ^ a b c "Egypt Copts killed in Christmas church attack". BBC News. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  4. ^ "Church attack spark riots". Arab news. 8 January 2010. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b Pope condemns murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt, (AFP) – 10 January 2010
  6. ^ a b "Lebanese PM النائب نديم الجميّل Nadim Gemayel stands in solidarity with Egypt's Copts يتضامن مع أقباط مصر (Arabic)". Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Nadim Gemayel denounces the attack on Christian Copts in Egyptنديم الجميل يستنكر الاعتداء على المسيحيين الأقباط في مصر (Arabic)". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Minister Frattini dismayed by the recent vioainst the Coptic Christian community in Egypt". Italian Foreign Ministry. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  9. ^ a b "7 people killed in a shooting incident in southern Egypt". 7 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b [1]
  11. ^ a b "Canada Condemns Attack on Coptic Christians". 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Canada Condemns Attack on Coptic Christians". 21 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  13. ^ Ibrahim, Youssef M. "Muslims' Fury Falls on Egypt's Christians". The New York Times, 15 March 1993. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  14. ^ "Egypt from "U.S. Department of State/Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs"". United States Department of State. 30 September 2008.
  15. ^ "Egypt from "Foreign and Commonwealth Office"". Foreign and Commonwealth Office -UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 15 August 2008. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012.
  16. ^ "Egypt Religions & Peoples from "LOOKLEX Encyclopedia"". LookLex Ltd. 30 September 2008.
  17. ^ a b Egypt's anxious Copts 'await next catastrophe', BBC
  18. ^ a b c d "International Freedom of Expression eXchange". Archived from the original on 7 November 2018. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  19. ^ a b c "Egypt's anxious Copts 'await next catastrophe'". BBC News. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  20. ^ John Pike. "Coptic Christianity". Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Clashes in Egyptian town after Coptic killings". BBC News. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  22. ^ "Muslims kill Christians on Christmas Eve at Nag Hammadi". Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  23. ^ a b "تصريحات " مجرد سؤال ؟". Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  24. ^ Egypt arrests Nag Hammadi shooters, Gregg Carlstrom | 8 January 2010
  25. ^ a b "Church attack spark riots". Arab news. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  26. ^ "Egyptian Coptic murder trial opens and is adjourned". BBC News. 14 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  27. ^ "Egypt Sentences Muslim to Death in Killings of Christians". The New York Times. 16 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  28. ^ "Egypt attacker gets death sentence". AlJazeera News. 16 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  29. ^ Fadl, Essam (9 February 2010). "Lawyer of alleged Coptic rapist requests trial transfer". The Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  30. ^ a b "Human Rights Watch". 16 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011.