Egypt: 20 dead as mobs attack Coptic protesters

At least 20 are dead after a march of 10,000 Copts on Cairo’s state TV building was attacked by stone-throwing counter-protesters. A street battle ensued as the Coptic protesters fought back and hurled stones at their assailants. Gun shots were fired in the air as army troops intervened in the clash. Egyptian TV showed protesters throwing petrol bombs and army vehicles burning outside the television building. The dead include 16 protesters and two soldiers, with some 40 people injured. Among those killed are Mina Daniel, an activist and blogger; Wael Yunna, a journalist for Coptic TV; and Michael Mosaad, a leader of the Maspero Youth Union, which organized the protest.

The protest was called in response to ongoing attacks against Copts. The protesters chanted, “Raise your head high you are a Copt,” and “No to burning of churches.” The protesters also chanted against the army, shouting “The people want the fall of the Field Marshall Tantawi,” and “Tantawi, where is your army, our homes and churches are being attacked.” Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has headed the regime since the fall of Mubarak.

The protesters were angered by the latest attack on the Coptic Church, at the village of Merinab in Aswan Sept. 30. The arson attack came after Muslim villagers attempted to block renovations underway at the Christian church in the majority Muslim village, charging that the building was a “guesthouse” that cannot be turned into a church. The protesters demanded that the governor of Aswan be removed, and that the government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf introduce an anti-discrimination law as promised in May. “You can call it whatever you like, anti-discrimination law, an anti-racism law,” said lawyer Nabil Ghabriel. “But the point is we want equality in this country.” (AhramOnlineBBC NewsAPAFPRTT News, BBC World Service, Oct. 9)

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