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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Muslims Fatal Clash with Christians in Cairo

Eleven people died in overnight fighting between Christians
and Muslims in the suburbs of Cairo, the Health Ministry said in the deadliest
unrest since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak last month

The clashes broke out during a protest by several hundred
Christians over the burning of a church in the village of Soul last week and
raged into the early hours of the morning, adding to a sense of unease as the
country begins to chart a post-Mubarak future.

The attack against the church in Soul is said to be the
result of tensions surrounding an interfaith love affair.

The clashes that started Tuesday night were the most serious
since Egypt’s revolution, which was striking for the solidarity between people
of different backgrounds, including religion and social class.

The violence posed a challenge to the country’s military-led
transitional government, which has made it a top priority to restore law and

Speaking on Al Jazeera television, the opposition figure
George Ishaq appealed for an end to the violence. He called those participating
in it “the real enemies of the revolution” and suggested they may be members of
the former ruling party and it’s much feared State Security force.

The dead included six Christians and five Muslims, security
sources said, all killed by gunshots. Around 100 people were injured in the
fighting, which prompted the closing of a major Cairo highway and a wave of
arson in the largely Christian slum of Mansheyet Nasr and the nearby neighbourhood
of Al Khalifa.

Eye witnesses told the London Times that the two sides
hurled stones and petrol bombs, and beat each other with clubs. Cairo ambulance
service officials said they were unable to reach the scene because of gunfire.

“The army prevented us from entering,” said Adel Azouz,
chairman of the ambulance service. “The people who fought each other might have
thought that our ambulances were there to offer support to the other side it’s
going completely mad here in unrest.”

Military prosecutors began investigating the clashes,
security sources said, questioning 15 people on charges of carrying guns and
damaging cars and other property. The clashes began after demonstrators
demanded that the transitional government rebuild the burned church, bring the
perpetrators to justice and publicly pledge to improve the condition of Egypt’s
Christians. The neighbourhood where the clashes erupted is home to many of the
so-called Zabaleen, (Which in Arabic means rubbish collectors) the city’s
impoverished mostly Christian rubbish collectors, who for ply their trade on
donkey carts or tiny mechanized trucks.

Several thousand Christians have demonstrated in front of
Egypt’s state television headquarters for the past three days to voice similar

The mood in front of the state television was angry and

“We are being persecuted and killed here by Muslims,” said
Bishoi Edmund, 24, a protester from the largely Christian neighbourhood of

“We need international protection,” he said. Mr Edmund and
others cite a long list of grievances, including the still-unsolved bombing of
an Alexandria church on New Year’s Eve that killed 23 people.

Following that attack, Cairo was rocked by several days of
rioting between Christian protesters and the police. Egypt has long wrestled
with sectarian tension between Muslims and Christians, who make up about 10 per
cent of the population and complain of widespread prejudice.

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