- (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
At least two Christians died and 89 others were injured on Sunday when rioters launched a massive attack on Christian mourners who were staging an anti-government march following a funeral for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes on Friday.
Health Ministry official Khaled el-Khateib said Monday that two had died and at least 89 were injured in violence outside the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo's Abbassia area on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.
One of the deceased was identified as Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim, but the identity of the other Christian was yet to be ascertained, officials said.
Police arrested about a dozen people for the attack, according to Egypt Independent.
From a few dozen Muslim men pelting the mourners with stones, the crowd swelled to about 200 on Sunday, according to Morning Star News. Rioters used firearms, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, fire bombs and other improvised weapons in the attack, and also set fire to cars.
During the funeral service, mourners chanted against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood, calling on him to step down.
While Morsi condemned the violence, saying he considered any attack on the cathedral as an attack against him personally, a Morning Star News reporter said police took more than an hour to respond, and when they arrived, they did nothing to stop the attack. Instead, most stood and watched men throw rocks at the Christians gathered at the gates of the cathedral compound or hurl stones over walls at the Christians trapped inside.
The reporter also witnessed one police officer sitting in a riot-control vehicle who fired a tear-gas grenade into the cathedral compound. Multiple, military-style tear gas grenades, similar to the one the police officer fired, were shot into the compound with regular frequency.
In Friday's sectarian clash in Khosoos, an impoverished town just north of Cairo, a Muslim was also killed apart from four Christians, The Associated Press reported.
During afternoon prayers on Friday, an imam in Khosoos called for anyone who had a weapon to, "Kill the Christians" and cleanse the area of "infidels," Morning Star News reported. A mob formed over a couple of hours, according to numerous residents, and then swept through a Christian part of the neighborhood.
As they screamed "Allahu Akbar [God is greater]," the mob attacked a Baptist church building, and then moved on to a Coptic Orthodox Church. The Baptist church building wasn't significantly damaged, but a preschool nursery run by the Church of St. George was destroyed. The mob also destroyed several Coptic-owned homes and looted several Coptic-owned businesses.
The Islamist-backed constitution Egyptian voters approved through a controversial referendum last year establishes Islamist supremacy and has caused concerns over the lack of full religious freedom in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.
Egypt's Coptic Christians, who account for at least 10 percent of the total population of 82 million, have faced numerous attacks since the ouster of President Mubarak about two years ago. Mubarak, though an authoritarian leader, kept Islamists under tight control.