By Mark Ellis
The death toll from the December 11th attack on a Coptic church in Cairo rose to 26 this week after ten-year-old Maggy Moemen died nine days after the blast, which killed mostly women and children.
It seems the 22-year-old terrorist with a suicide vest exploded himself on the side of the church where women and children sat, separated from the men.
The bomb reportedly went off as the priest was saying the prayer of the Consecration of the Elements, according to a report by World Watch Monitor (WWM).
At least 50 others were injured by the blast, and 14 remain in critical condition.
One of the victims, Amany Aziz, 32, had a premonition of her death.
“I was attending the Mass with my wife as usual,” Wagdi Wageh, the widower of Amany told WWM. “Suddenly we heard a huge explosion, the lights went off and the ceiling on the women’s side of the church collapsed. I rushed over to search for my wife.
“Rubble, dust and broken wood of the pews covered most of the bodies. I only recognized her by her clothing – her face was covered with blood and dust.”
Several young people from the church helped Wagdi carry his wife out and put her in an ambulance. Sadly, she never regained consciousness.
“The day before the bombing, my wife felt that she would soon die; she was acting as if to say goodbye,” Wagdi recounted. “My sister phoned us and said she would like to come to visit, my wife replied, ‘Wait for tomorrow and you will attend my funeral.’
“On Saturday evening, my wife also prepared a present, gave it to my mother and told her ‘this is to remember me by.’”
“Although I feel great pain, I’m sure that she is in a very good place in Heaven. She was always praying, reading in the Bible and going to church. Pray for us.”
Witnesses to the explosion described horrifying and chaotic scenes as a wall and celling of the church collapsed on worshippers, and frantic efforts to find loved ones trapped under rubble and broken pews.
This church CCTV shows a man in a long coat walking towards the church and a guard, Nabil Habib, running after him, immediately before the terrible blast. Both the suicide bomber and the guard were killed, according to WWM.
The suicide bomber apparently visited the church at 11pm the night before the attack, after the priest had finished the evening prayer. The man was carrying a black case, said he was Muslim but wanted to find out more about Christianity. He asked if he could enter the church and talk to a priest, and he was advised to return the next day at 10am.
Some recognized the bomber from that encounter when they saw his photo on the news days later.
Emad Thabet, a deacon at the church, told WWM: “We heard the sound of a very huge explosion and the whole church became dark. White dust filled the church, and there were screams everywhere, and bodies of the dead and the injured. You could see body parts, and blood splattered all over the place.
“A large part of the church ceiling collapsed, windows shattered, the main door fell down, icons were destroyed and the pews on the right side of the church were broken and destroyed.
One of the victims, Nevin Salama, worked as an Obstetrics and Gynecology doctor at Sheikh Zayed hospital in Cairo.
“She was single and was an active servant of the church, she taught the Coptic language and was loved by all the church members,” Father Anton told WWM.
“She was kind and humble and had a strong relationship with God. She lived like an angel on the earth, loved all people and a smile was never absent from her face. She was always talking about martyrs and she hoped to be like them.
“Those who were martyred in this incident moved from the Mass on the earth to the Mass on heaven to complete their prayer with Jesus Christ,” he said.
One mother and daughter sat next to each other in the pews, but God nudged the daughter to get up and feed her son, so she missed the blast. “Providence saved my wife as she had been sitting beside my mum, but a few minutes before the explosion she got up to feed Giovanni,” Raymon Wahdi told WWM.
“Anyone feels sorrow when his mother dies but I’m sure that she is in a better place in heaven, and she has gained the crown of martyrdom.
“My daughter Avon hasn’t been able to sleep since the explosion; she is terrified. My children have seen terrible sights beyond their years, and this incident will impact badly on their life,” he said.
The brother of the security guard who perished recalled the scene.
“Nabil was badly wounded, lying close to the church door and covered with blood. Young people from the church carried him out and headed to Dar El-Shefa hospital but he passed away as he arrived. He looked at his elder daughter and told to her take care of her sister, brother and mother. Then he smiled and died,” Zarif Habib said.
“He had been blessed with a baby boy a few days before, and named him Fady. He had two girls aged 15 and 13, and had prayed for many years for God to bless him with a boy to take care of his two sisters and mother after his death.”
One woman, Amal Bishara, 67, was killed on the anniversary of her husband’s death.
“My aunt Amal went to the church on 11 December with her two daughters and son to mark the first anniversary of the death of her late husband Aziz,” Nawal Girgis told WWM.
“When the explosion occurred the church wall fell on her. Her son tried to rescue her but couldn’t. One of her daughters, Heba, was wounded and is still in a critical condition.
“Amal was a kind and warm-hearted woman. She had a strong relationship with God, especially after the death of her husband. Our only comfort is that she went to Heaven.” Nawal Girgis, the niece of Amal Atta Bishara, recalls:
One woman, Eman Youssef, 40, had recently moved near the church and was attending mass for the first time. Her sister Magda recalled: “Eman and her only son, six-year-old son Steven, had
recently moved to a new flat and she was attending Mass there for the first time. During the Mass, Steven got up and went to the toilet. When he returned he found his mother, dead.”
“He is now orphaned; he lost his father four years ago.” Steven’s father was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood as he attempted to pass by a demonstration that had erupted in 2012.
The cousin of one mother and daughter killed asked for forgiveness for the perpetrators. “May God forgive whoever committed this incident and touch their hearts. Our God is the God of love and He has taught us to love our enemies,” Jihan Moussa told WWM.
Two sisters, Marina Fahim Helmy, 20, and Veronaa Fahim Helmy, 18, had just just put up Christmas decorations before their deaths.
“Marina and Veronaa put up Christmas decorations in the small bedroom they shared two days before they died. Decorations hung from the small chandelier and all around the room.
“Members of the church choir, Marina hoped to become a doctor and Veronaa an engineer. They were their parents’ only children, and their whole life. Now their parents Nahla and Fahim have shut the girls’ bedroom door – it was unbearable to see hand-written notebooks on the desk, and sniff the fragrance from the girls’ perfumes still hanging in the air – and have taken down the Christmas tree and the fairy lights. They are like Rachel, ‘weeping for their children and refusing to be comforted’ (Matthew 2:18).”
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