Mohsen Morkous and several relatives are considered martyrs for their Coptic Christian faith after they were killed Friday in Egypt in an attack on a bus filled with pilgrims, according to his priest.
The Tinley Park man, two of his sons and two grandchildren were among the 29 people slain. His wife, Samia Ibrahim, was wounded and is being treated at an Egyptian hospital. Other relatives also were injured, said the Rev. Samuel Azmy of St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Monee.
“These men, ISIS, they went on the bus and pointed a gun to everyone on the bus and said ‘Deny your faith and live,’ ” the priest said. ” ‘Either you convert to Islam or you will be killed.’ ”
When the passengers refused, the priest said, “I think they randomly started shooting.”
“We are so proud of Mr. Morkous,” he said. “In our faith, we consider them as martyrs in the church.”
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
In addition to killing two of Morkous’ sons and two grandchildren, the gunmen killed many people related to his two daughters-in-law, his nephew, Gerges Morkous, said.
Mohsen Morkous was a kind man who organized family members to go on the pilgrimage, Azmy said Sunday. “He was taking relatives on a trip to monasteries, [to get] some blessings.”
He worked as an assistant at his nephew’s salon, Mena’s Hair Design on 167th Street in Country Club Hills. He immigrated from Egypt to America several years ago and recently became a U.S. citizen.
He and his wife had planned on staying in Egypt for much of the summer to visit relatives there, including his two sons, who who lived there, the priest said.
“He’s a simple man. Everyone loved him,” Azmy said. “It’s devastating.”
Gerges Morkous said he spoke Sunday with Samia Ibrahim in the Egyptian hospital where she is recuperating, and that she reported authorities took somewhere from two to three hours to arrive at the scene. “The ambulance took forever,” he said. He questioned whether his uncle and others might have lived had the response been quicker.
According to Gerges Morkous, his aunt told him that after the attack, women survivors were able to call a police station within about 3 miles of the bus, but were rejected as hoaxers. “After the accident happened, her daughter-in-law, her son’s wife, they both [were] walking; they [were] bleeding, but they [were] walking up the road to call someone, and when they have the signal, they tried to call the police station,” Gerges Morkous said. “They told them it was a hoax call.”
Meanwhile, Mohsen Morkous was bleeding badly, his nephew said.
“My aunt told me he died in her lap. He was bleeding. He was still talking,” he said. “We need to send this message to the American Embassy in Egypt. We need to investigate.”
And, Gerges Morkous said, his aunt told him some victims were able to contact relatives who lived as much as 90 minutes to two hours from the scene — and those family members arrived at the bus before the police.
Tinley Park Mayor Jacob C. Vandenberg said the village grieves for the family’s loss. “It’s unfortunate they are victims of this senseless violence and killing,” the mayor said Sunday.
Video interviews with survivors of the deadly strike paint a picture of horror, with children hiding under their seats to escape gunfire. The videos surfaced on social media networks Sunday.
One survivor, a small boy who seemed to be about 6, said his mother pushed him under her seat and covered him with a bag. A young woman speaking from her hospital bed said the assailants ordered women to surrender their jewelry and money before they opened fire, killing the men first and then some of the women.
The woman said the gunmen were masked and wore military uniforms.
A video clip purportedly taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting showed at least four or five bodies of adult men lying on the desert sand next to the bus. Women and other men screamed and cried as they stood or squatted next to the bodies.
Egypt responded to the attack with a wave of airstrikes against suspected militant bases where the military said the perpetrators trained. A hunt for the assailants in the vast deserts to the west of the site of the attack has so far yielded no arrests.
It was the fourth attack against Christians in Egypt since December to be claimed by the IS. The assaults have killed more than 100 and injured scores of others.
Contributing: Associated Press