01/03/2011, 00.00
EGYPT – ISLAM

Alexandria, tensions between Copts and Government

Demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria to demand greater protection, and an end to discrimination. The authors of the massacre could be Egyptian fundamentalists. The Vatican rejects accusations of "interference" by the imam of Al-Azhar against the words of the Pope at the Angelus, January 2.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The suicide attack on the Coptic Church of Saints (Al Kiddissine) in Alexandria was carried out by local elements of the Islamic Jihad, according to specialist anti terrorism sources. President Hosni Mubarak immediately after the attack had asked Copts and Muslims to show unity in the face of "an foreign attack." The New Year's Eve suicide bombers who carried out the bombing on the church of Alexandria had, at first, tried to get inside the place of Christian worship to cause the greatest number of victims among the faithful.

An Egyptian police source cited by the Arabic daily 'Al-Quds al-Arabi', according to some witnesses said the bomber had tried to enter the church. However he changed his mind on seeing officers on guard outside the main door. Instead the terrorist waited for the faithful to emerge from the Church after mass. Investigators are analyzing an unidentified corpse found at the site of the attack in an attempt to identify the bomber. Meanwhile, a dozen people have been detained and questioned, seven are still in police custody.

The anger of the Copts after the attack, which caused 22 dead and dozens wounded, shows no sign of abating. Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in Alexandria and Cairo, demanding more protection. The Copts accuse the authorities of discriminating against them, of preventing the construction of churches and of paying little attention to violence perpetrated by Islamic radicals. Yesterday Copts attacked the car of the Minister of Interior and the imam of Al-Azhar Islamic University on a visit of condolence to the patriarch Shenouda III.

Just prior to the visit to Shenouda III, the imam of Al-Azhar University, Ahmed Al Tayeb, criticized the Pope's Angelus address yesterday and his January 1 address. Defining them as "unacceptable interference in the affairs of Egypt" he accused the Pope of having "a biased view on Muslims and Christians who are at risk of being killed around the world." The newspapers interpreted the Pope's words as an invitation to Western governments to defend the Christians in the countries they inhabit. Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi replied: "The Pope spoke of course of sympathy for the Coptic community that has been so hard hit, but then expressed concern for the impact of violence on the entire population, both Christian and Muslim. So it is difficult to see how the Pope’s words, so eager to inspire non-violence in all, can be considered interference.'' "I think there has been a misunderstandings in communication, but I do not think that there is any need to insist on the imam’s declaration”, concluded Father Lombardi. (see: Pope: The attacks in Egypt and Iraq are an offense against God and humanity).

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