Egypt vows probe into Sunday's deadly clashes

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- Egypt's prime minister chaired an emergency meeting Monday after clashes involving soldiers and Coptic protesters left at least 25 dead and hundreds wounded.

Many of those killed were crushed by military vehicles.

Tensions remained high as hundreds of Copts rallied outside a Cairo hospital, chanting, "The army has its tanks, but we have our prayers," but elsewhere in the capitol, another crowd of Muslims chanted, "Muslimiya! Muslimiya!" displaying their dismay with Egypt's Copts.

Sunday's violence resulted from rising sectarian tensions after the recent destruction at a Coptic church; Copts protested Sunday to demand that the military provide equal protection for Christian places of worship, but what happened after was unclear; demonstrators said they were marching peacefully towards the Egyptian state television building when violence suddenly erupted.

"Suddenly, we were attacked by thugs carrying swords and clubs," protester Magdi Hanna told CNN. Other witnesses said the army fired on protesters near the television building.

Sherif Doss, head of Egypt's association of Coptics, said 17 civilians died and 40 were wounded, but Lt. Col. Amr Imam claimed 12 soldiers were killed and more than 50 were wounded; he said this was "first time protesters fired at the army."

"There must be a hidden hand behind this," Imam said. "Egyptians don't do that."

Doss demanded that the army check the bullets that killed its soldiers: "They are probably military bullets (since) we do not have weapons."

Coptic Christians -- who constitute about 9% of Egypt's population -- have suffered serious violence in recent months.

A Coptic church in the city of Alexandria was bombed on New Year's Day, killing 23 people -- the deadliest attack on Christians in Egypt in recent times; clashes involving Coptic Christians in May left at least 12 dead.

Egypt's Copts trace their roots to the teachings of Gospel author John Mark, who traditionally introduced Christianity into Egypt; Copts split with other Christians in the 5th century over the definition of the divinity of the Christ.