Egypt Christians mourn the dead after clashes kill 25


GROWING FRUSTRATION

“The army was very violent in dealing with all these demonstrations … and they are being very violent as they know they will not be held accountable and will use such protests to increase repression in Egypt,” said Gamal Eid of the Arab Network For Human Rights Information.

Egyptian Christians throw stones at soldiers and riot police during a protest against an attack on a church in southern Egypt, in Cairo. Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

“That is evidence that the military has to leave power as soon as possible,” he said.

The clashes add to the growing frustration of pro-democracy activists with the generals who took over from Mubarak. Many Egyptians suspect the army wants to wield power from behind the scenes even as it hands day-to-day government to civilians.

The ruling army council denies this.

“We note Prime Minister Sharaf’s call for an investigation, and appeal to all parties to remain calm,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement, expressing condolences to the families.

European Union ministers expressed alarm and said the authorities had a duty to protect religious minorities.

“We really do expect that Egypt will move towards its elections with the desire to see all people as part of those elections and to protect the people whoever they are, wherever they come from and whatever belief and faith they have,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa said he would join political groups and others at an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the violence. He told Reuters it was important that the incident did not derail the election timetable.

“I hope that this will not happen. I hope we are going to do as agreed, that there will be election and we will move forward. We don’t want a delay in the process,” he said.

The army has yet to announce a date for a presidential election. A staggered parliamentary vote that lasts till March followed by drawing up a new constitution could push the vote back to the end of 2012 or early 2013, leaving presidential powers in the hands of the military council until then.

Moussa and other presidential hopefuls have demanded a swifter presidential vote on April 1.

Protests erupted elsewhere in Egypt including its second biggest city, Alexandria. Copts say promises by the new rulers to address their concerns and protect them have been ignored.

“The new emerging faction of Islamists and Salafists has created havoc since the January revolution … The problem is the severe reluctance of the cabinet and the authorities to enforce the rule of law and protect the Copts,” Youssef Sidhom, editor in chief of a Orthodox Coptic newspaper, al-Watani.

Christians complain of discrimination, citing rules that they say make it easier to build a mosque than a church. Tensions have often in the past flared over inter-faith romantic relationships, church building and other issues.

But since Mubarak’s removal on February 11, incidents have spun into violence more swiftly. Christians say no one has been tried yet for the burning of a church in Helwan, south of Cairo, in March, after which 13 people were killed, or for violence in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba on May 7 that cost 15 lives.

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Reuters

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