Monday, April 8, 2013

Ten Christians, 1 Muslim Killed in Sectarian Clashes in Egypt

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted Friday in the Al-Khosous district of Qaliubia province.

Coptic Christians (background) form human shield
in front of church.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian Internal News Agency (AINA), reports say ten Coptic Christians and one Muslim were killed. The violence broke out after swastikas were drawn on the side of a mosque wall.

AINA reported Muslims claimed the swastikas were drawn by Christian children, but the Qaliubia security forces manager, Mohamad Yousry , said it was two Muslim children who drew the swastikas and the mosque Imam chided them.

However, AINA said, some Christians and Muslims got involved in the incident and it escalated from there.

Yousry added that rumors of Christians drawing crosses on the mosque's walls were circulated by Muslims.

AINA said Salafi Muslims began gathering in side streets near the Coptic Church of St. Georges. Christians formed a human shield to prevent them from approaching. Witnesses said the Muslims shot at the church and disappeared into the side streets.

AINA said according to Father Sourial Younan, the priest of St. Georges Church, the Copts were killed in front of the church by gun shots.

AINA reported that pastors in Al-Khosous called several TV stations and NGOs early Friday evening to express their fear that if this incidents was not confined it would spread to neighboring areas, including Ain Shams and Zoreibat. Younan warned of impending bloodshed.

AINA reported Younan said he was locked inside the church with another priest and 50 Copts and stayed inside until the early hours of today.

"It was as if war had broken out. We peeped through the windows and saw Coptic youth slain in front of the church, and families carrying their wounded away."

AINA said Younan criticized the police, who arrived two hours late, and security forces, who he said arrived five hours late.

Younan said, "Destruction and arson took place in the presence of police, who were unable to control the attack."

AINA reported Younan said that later there was an armored vehicle calling on inhabitants to stay in their homes so that they could deal with the terrorists.

There was street fighting throughout the night.

AINA said according to Coptic activist Nader Shoukry, these events were encouraged by the neighboring Muslim religious institution, which belongs to Al-Azhar, to "purify the region of Christians."

According to Younan, there was a feud between a Coptic family named Samir Iskandar and a Muslim family, which may have been the spark that caused the violence. AINA said Younan believes that what started yesterday's clashes was Muslims from the family sexually harassing Coptic girls from the Iskandar family - which started the fight between them.

Younan said, "A fight between two families. What has this to do with the church?"

However, AINA said, many activists and politicians believe the incident was orchestrated by the regime to cover up the turmoil and demonstrations in the country.

Mohamad Abu Hamed, a former MP, said "It is not possible that every time the regime wants to cover-up its failure, the Copts are attacked and their churches burned."

AINA said while the governor and security forces claim everything is under control, Younan believes it is "the calm before the storm."

It has been reported that Christian families have started leaving Al-Khosour for fear of renewed clashes.

AINA reported security forces say they are in the process of arranging a "reconciliation" meeting between the two parties.

Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub said, "During which the Copts are expected to give up all their rights as usual."

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