Coptic Christians targeted as violence in Egypt spreads

Up to 36 churches burned down in response to army crackdown on Morsi supporters

The damaged interior of the Saint Moussa Church is seen a day after it was burned in sectarian violence following the dispersal of two Cairo sit-ins of supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in Minya, south of Cairo, yesterday. Photograph: Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper/AP

The damaged interior of the Saint Moussa Church is seen a day after it was burned in sectarian violence following the dispersal of two Cairo sit-ins of supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in Minya, south of Cairo, yesterday. Photograph: Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper/AP

Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 01:00


Churches and Coptic Christian homes and property have come under concerted attack in Egypt since security forces dispersed Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo, killing at least 525, including 42 police officers.

During a telephone call to Coptic Pope Twadros II, interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi vowed to deal harshly with “terrorism” and said “unity between Muslims and Christians is a red line”.

Army chief general Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi pledged that the armed forces would finance the restoration of the churches.

A Coptic youth movement reported that 36 churches were “completely” destroyed by fire in nine Egyptian provinces where many Copts live.

Many other churches were attacked and looted. Movement spokesman Antwan Adel said at least two Copts were confirmed dead in Alexandria and Minya during assaults on the community.

Mr Adel told Ahram Online that the Brotherhood seeks “to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims”. Copts comprise 10 per cent of Egypt’s 83 million people.

The secular April 6th movement said that churches have been threatened across Egypt but the police and army do not protect them.

Brotherhood militants calling for the reinstatement of ousted president Mohamed Morsi have burned police stations and attacked the offices of provincial governors, including the building housing the governor of Giza, south of Cairo and a finance ministry building in Cairo’s Nasr City neighbourhood where the largest of the two sit-ins was located.


Deadly force
Following these attacks, the interior ministry authorised police to employ deadly force when under attack and to defend state institutions.

At least four soldiers were shot dead by gunmen, believed to be radical fundamentalists, in northern Sinai.

Major political parties dubbed Wednesday’s disbanding of the protest camps in Cairo as an “inevitable evil” but the ultra-conservative Salafi Call, the April 6th youth group, and the Revolutionary Socialists – who strongly oppose the Brotherhood – condemned the police operation.

Because of the imposition of martial law, 84 Brotherhood members and supporters in the Canal City of Suezare are to be prosecuted by military rather than civilian courts for murder and for setting fire to churches. One of the key demands of Egyptians involved in the 2011 uprising was that civilians should be tried in civilian courts.

The detention order on Mr Morsi, who has been held incommunicado in an undisclosed location since July 3rd, has been extended for another 30 days.

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has called for an independent investigation into the killings during the violent dispersal of the protest camps.

She said the operation to clear the sites appeared to be “an excessive, even extreme use of force against demonstrators” and called upon the security forces to exercise restraint.