06/24/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Giza: Islamist mob attacks Shia village killing four

The lynching took place yesterday afternoon in the village of Abu Zawyat Muslam (Giza). Hassan Shehata, an important leader of the Shia community in Egypt, is among the dead. Apparently, the police stood idly by watching rather than intervening. The military says it is ready to step in the political fray to stop the country from slipping "into a dark tunnel of conflict," the Defence minister said.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - A mob of 3,000 people lynched four Shia Muslims in Giza (Cairo) accused of proselytising. The incident occurred yesterday afternoon in the village of Abu Zawyat Muslam.

After thousands of people stormed houses and shops led by a Salafist sheikh, four people were taken out of their homes, including Hassan Shehata (an important leader in Egypt's Shia community) and brought to the town's centre where they were punched and kicked to death. In the scuffle, at least 30 people were injured.

In order to avoid a massacre, police evacuated the entire village, but some families were still held up in their homes.

The violent incident has alarmed the Armed Forces, which announced that they would intervene if violence broke out during anti- and pro-Morsi demonstrations on 30 June.

"For three weeks the Salafist sheikhs in the village have been attacking the Shias and accusing them of being infidels and spreading debauchery," Hazem Barakat, a resident in Abu Zawyat Muslam, said. In his view, the attack had been planned for some time.

Barakat, who reported the incident live on Twitter, took photos and videos showing one of the Shias dragged into the street where he was beaten.

"I saw several Shias stabbed several times while they were being dragged in some sort of public lynching," he added.

The police force came late according to eyewitnesses and did nothing to stop the attack and public lynching.

"They were just watching the public lynching like anyone else and did not stop anything," said Barakat.

About 3 million Shias live in Egypt. With the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, who follow Wahabi Sunni Islam, incidents of violence and discrimination against the minority have increased.

Salafist Islamist TV host Khaled Abdullah yesterday claimed that Shias in Zawyat Abu Muslam were attacked because they had insulted the Prophet Mohamed.

Several Salafist and conservative Facebook pages bragged about the murder of the Shias, claiming that that was just the beginning of the end of Shiism in Egypt.

Ahead of 30 June, the deadline set for the delivery of the petition by 'The Rebels' movement to the Supreme Court, Egypt is bracing for a decisive week for its future. If the Court validates the signatures, Morsi will have to resign and Egyptians will go to early elections. However, Islamists are not likely to give up power after 40 years.

The situation is such that the Egyptian media have been issuing warnings about the possibility of civil war.

At least two thirds of the population is against the Islamist revival imposed by the Justice and Freedom Party with the support of the Salafist movement and the Islamist Jamaa al-Islamiya organisation, which has armed groups in areas of Upper Egypt ready to fight in case the president is ousted.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El Sissi said that whilst the military had stayed out the political fray, its patriotic and moral responsibility toward Egyptians would force it to intervene and stop Egypt from "slipping into a dark tunnel of conflict, internal fighting. [. . .] We will not remain silent whilst the country slips into a conflict that will be hard to control," he said.

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