Monday, October 10, 2011

Egypt clashes: Copts mourn victims of Cairo unrest

Egyptian Coptic men carry the coffin of a victim of deadly clashes, during a funeral at Abassaiya Cathedral in Cairo on October 10
Copts mixed mourning with anti-military chants at the funerals

Eyewitnesses said people were deliberately shot and run over by military vehicles.

Thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians have gathered for the funerals of protesters killed during clashes with security forces in Cairo on Sunday.

Many mourners expressed anger at the army, which they blame for the deaths.

The protesters say they were attacked by thugs before the security forces fired on them and drove military vehicles into the crowds.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed forces has told the government to carry out a swift inquiry into the violence.

The council - which was handed the power to govern by President Hosni Mubarak before he was ousted in a popular revolt - is meant to be transitional and to hand over power to a president, once he or she is elected.

The transitional government is appointed by the council.

The Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt's 85 million population, have a number of grievances against the interim administration.

They say the authorities have been slow to punish radical Islamists who have attacked their churches.

On Monday there were more angry scenes and low-level clashes between security forces and Copts, who had gathered for the funerals.

"Many mourners directed their anger against the military, and particularly the head of the military council Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi.

"Tantawi you traitor, the blood of Copts is not cheap," Christians chanted outside the hospital where the bodies of their loved ones had been stored.

"Others called for Field Marshal Tantawi to be deposed.;"At least 24 people died on Sunday and hundreds more were injured.;">It is not clear how many of those killed were Christians, but the authorities said three soldiers were among the dead."

Coptic Church leader Pope Shenuda III blamed Sunday's violence on infiltrators."The Christian faith denounces violence. Strangers infiltrated the demonstration and committed the crimes for which the Copts have been blamed," the pope said in a statement.

"The military called on the government to carry out a quick investigation into the clashes by "forming a fact-finding committee to determine what happened and take legal measures against all those proven to have been involved".  (The military is in charge - so, this statement is a smokescreen!)

"Security has been stepped up at vital installations in Cairo, with additional troops deployed outside parliament and the cabinet building in anticipation of further unrest.

"Thousands of people - mainly but not exclusively Christians - joined Sunday's march from the Shubra district of northern Cairo to the state TV building in Maspero Square.

They were calling on the military council to sack the governor of Aswan province.
They also accused state TV of fanning the flames of anti-Christian agitation.
The demonstrators said they were assaulted by attackers in plain clothes before the clashes with the security forces broke out.
There were reports of thousands joining in the street violence, attacking both sides. Rioters tore up the pavement and hurled stones.The violence began outside the state TV building but soon spread to Tahrir Square, the centre of the demonstrations which led to President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in February.
Later, Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf appealed for calm.
Christians in Egypt have been worried by the increasing show of strength by ultra-conservative Islamists.
In May, 12 people died in attacks on Coptic churches. In March, 13 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Copts in Tahrir Square.
This latest violence comes ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 28 November, the first such vote since Mr Mubarak was ousted.

The Copts, the largest minority in Egypt, complain of discrimination, including a law requiring presidential permission for churches to be built. Egypt only recognises conversions from Christianity to Islam, not the other way.

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