By Nader Shukry
The families of two Copts who were shot to death last week in the village of Nazlet Roman in Abu-Qurqas in Minya, Upper Egypt, have refused to accept condolences for the dead men, meaning they plan to wage a vendetta against the killers. Vendetta in Upper Egypt is a much-feared social ill that may extend through to successive generations as families insist on exacting their version of justice on their own, independent of the law. The Copts killed in Nazlet Roman were two men in their twenties of the same family: Nabil Ibrahim and Ramez Wagih. Two other of their cousins were injured.
One of the injured, Hanna Hakim Hanna told Watani that, as he drove with his nephews towards their home village in a van late in the evening of last Thursday, “we found approaching us another vehicle with its headlights turned glaringly on. We slowed down, but the vehicle stopped, and four men disembarked and rushed at us. We recognised them as Mohamed Mohamed Selim, Ali Abu-Taleb—commonly known as Shadaad, as well as Hany and Hassan Ragab who go by the names of Mohamed and Hassan Gomaa. They are all members of al-Hidiq clan. They started shooting at us.
“My nephew Samy Wagih, who was driving, speeded up in an attempt to flee. Our assailants shot at our tyres, but we drove on. Wagih was injured and I was wounded in the arm, so we stopped and another cousin, Usama Rizq went to take over driving. He decided, however, to have a look at our relatives at the back and was horrified to find that Nabil Ibrahim had lost his life and that Ramez Wagih was injured in the head.
“We rushed to the hospital, only to find that Wagih had already died.
“Samy is suffering an injury in the backbone.”
Hanna said those who survived the shooting were already questioned by the prosecution, and gave detailed information about the shooting and the shooters. The prosecution ordered the arrest of the culprits, but they are still at large.
Abu-Taleb has the reputation of being a thug and a killer. Last month four Copts were shot at and one of them, Peter Fawzy, died. It was circulated that Abu-Taleb was the culprit, but there was not enough evidence to indict him. He is famous for ravaging and torching Coptic-owned land, property, and businesses, but was never caught.
The animosity between the Hannas and Abu-Taleb goes back to 2007, when a street fight erupted between members of al-Hidiq and Shadaad clans on one side and the Hannas on the other. Samuel Hanna was killed, but the police caught no-one and the culprit was considered unknown. Three years ago Shadaad’s son was shot; the Hannas were accused of having a hand in his death, and three members of their family were sentenced to prison terms. They were released last September.
“We have faced the situation when one of our family was killed and no justice was exacted,” Hanna said. “Until the man who killed our men is caught and brought to justice, we will accept no condolences.”
All attempts by the local Church to persuade the Hannas to accept condolences in order that the matter should not turn into an outright vendetta failed.