Egypt's Anba Bishoy Church fire ‘caused by children playing with lit candles’

CCTV analysis by investigators overrules initial theory of electrical fault

People stand outside Anba Bishoy Church after a fire broke out, in Minya, Egypt. EPA
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An investigation into a massive fire at the Anba Bishoy Church in the Egyptian province of Minya has found that two children playing with candles started the blaze, a Coptic Church media centre statement said on Wednesday.

After analysing security camera footage from the day of the fire, investigators identified two children playing with lit candles near the altar, the statement said, although authorities’ believe that they did not intend to start the fire.

The two children and their parents were brought in for questioning and they reportedly admitted to what was seen on the security cameras.

Prior to investigations, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the cause of the fire was an electrical issue, the same reported source of a more serious fire at Abu Seifein Church in Giza, in which 41 were killed and 14 injured on Sunday.

Anba Moussa Church, in 6th of October, a suburb of Cairo, also reported an electrical issue on Monday, when a statement from the church said members of the congregation saw an electrical box inside the premises emit sparks.

The issue was addressed before it developed further, the church said.

The string of fires has spawned a number of conspiracy theories on Egyptian social media from some commentators who are of the opinion that three electrical issues at three churches in as many days, two of which resulted in serious fires, was too much of a coincidence.

Others noted that the first, and most serious, of the two fires, took place on August 14, the ninth anniversary of a forced dispersal of protesters by the Egyptian military in 2013, during which members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group were killed and injured.

Updated: August 17, 2022, 4:22 PM