01/12/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

Cairo protests against the Vatican. Another Christian killed and five wounded

Egypt recalls its Ambassador to the Holy See. The Pope's appeal to protect Christians considered "unacceptable interference". An off duty policeman fires on a group of Christians in Salamut shouting "Allahu Akbar".

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The very day Egypt recalls its ambassador to the Holy See over the Pope's declarations of solidarity with Copts, another attack, in all likelihood inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, has resulted in on Christian dead and five people wounded in the land of the Pyramids. Yesterday Cairo recalled its ambassador for consultations. The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hossam Zaki, said that the recall is the result of "new statements by the Vatican that affect the internal affairs of Egypt, and that Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs." A Vatican source told Agence France Presse that the move "does not constitute a break in diplomatic relations."

In a statement, the Vatican said it "fully supports" the will of the Egyptian government to "avoid an escalation of tensions for religious reasons ... and appreciates the governments efforts in this direction." The statement follows a meeting between the Vatican’s "foreign minister", Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, and the Egyptian ambassador, Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, who in turn said she was "expressing the concerns of his government in this difficult time." The Vatican press release concludes by saying that during his meeting with Msgr. Mamberti Mrs. Mekhemar "receive dinformation and gather necessary details to be able to report the Pope's recent intervention, particularly on religious freedom and protection of Christians in the Middle East, properly." (10/01/2011 Freedom of religion: the Pope’s campaign for world peace).

Meanwhile, another serious incident occurred on the railway line linking Cairo to Assiut. A police officer, Amer Abdel Zaher Ashur, took the train to Salamut, about 200 km south of Cairo, and opened fire with his police weapon. He killed a 71 year old Coptic Christian, Fathi Said Ebeid, and wounded his wife of 61 and four others. Medical sources say that all the wounded, two of them in serious condition, are Christians. A police officer who was not in uniform tried to flee but was arrested in the station.  He was questioned about the motives for his attack, but the investigators are maintaining secrecy on the outcome of the interview. Ayman Mohyeldin, Cairo correspondent for Al Jazeera, said that the authorities do not seem eager to disclose the reasons for the attack. "The bombing of Alexandria is on everyone’s mind. There will be many questions whether the Salamut attack has religious roots. "

Bishop Morcos, bishop of the Coptic Church in Salamut, claims to have spoken to some witnesses of the attack. "This madman went back and forth on the train looking for Christians. Seeing a group of women and girls who were not wearing a veil, he thought they were Christian and fired, shouting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great). " Following a few hundred Copts gathered in front of the Good Shepherd Hospital in Salamut, where the injured are hospitalized, and clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

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