Egypt Christians mourn the dead after clashes kill 25

CAIRO — Egyptian Christians mourned their dead and berated the army on Monday after at least 25 people were killed when troops crushed a protest about an attack on a church in the worst violence since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. 

Armoured personnel carriers sped into the crowd late on Sunday to break up the demonstrators near the state television building. Videos posted on the Internet showed mangled bodies. Activists said corpses had been crushed by the vehicles.

Tension between Muslims and minority Coptic Christians has simmered for years but has worsened since the anti-Mubarak revolt, which has allowed the emergence of Salafist and other strict Islamist groups that the former president had repressed.

Muslim and Christian activists said much of the anger from Sunday’s violence was focused on the army, which has also come under fire from across the political spectrum for failing to give a clear timetable for handing power to civilians.

“Why didn’t they do this with the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood when they organise protests? This is not my country any more,” said Alfred Younan, a Copt speaking near Cairo’s Coptic Christian hospital where many of the dead were taken.

The violence casts a shadow over Egypt’s first parliamentary poll since Mubarak fell. Voting starts on November 28.

“Instead of advancing to build a modern state of democratic principles, we are back searching for security and stability, worrying that there are hidden hands, both domestic and foreign, seeking to obstruct the will of Egyptians in establishing a democracy,” Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said on state television.

“We will not surrender to these malicious conspiracies and we will not accept reverting back,” he said on Monday before an emergency meeting of the full cabinet later in the day.

Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s roughly 80 million people, took to the streets after blaming Muslim radicals for partially demolishing a church in Aswan province last week. They also demanded the sacking of the province’s governor for failing to protect the building.

The Health Ministry said 24 people were killed and 272 people wounded, including 253 who were taken to hospital. State media later put the toll at 25 dead, the bulk of them Copts.

Justice Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz el-Guindy said the investigation and any trials would be handled by military courts. State newspaper Al Ahram said 15 people were being investigated. State media had said dozens were detained.

Streets near the state television building had been largely cleared of debris on Sunday, but smashed and burned vehicles lined streets in the area near the Coptic hospital, which was also the scene of violence overnight. Continue reading on the next page…

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