04/08/2013, 00.00
EGYPT - ISLAM
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Tensions between Christian and Islamic groups. Six dead in three days

Four Copts and a Muslim shot dead in Khosous. The imams incite violence against Christians. Christian kindergarten and homes burned. At a funeral in the Cathedral of St. Mark, a group attack the funeral procession with Molotov cocktails and stones. Morsi and al-Azhar condemn the violence. The police almost totally absent. The Christians accuse the government of failing to provide any security for the minority.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - There is growing tension between groups of Christians and Muslims after the killing of four Copts and a Muslim in the district of Khosous. At the funeral of the Christian victims, held yesterday in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo, another Christian was killed and at least 80 were injured after the funeral procession was attacked by unidentified groups.

It all began on April 5 in Khosous, on the outskirts of Cairo. The clashes between Christians and Muslims was sparked by graffiti with a swastika on the wall of an Islamic building, which the Muslims attributed to Christians. Some buildings of the Christian community were torched and shots were fired. Four Christians were killed along with a Muslim.

According to a Coptic priest in Khosous, the violence is rooted in a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim family that has lasted for three months. The problem had been solved, but a few days ago a group of Salafis threatened a Christian woman. Father Suriel, from the church of Mar Girgis, says that "some imams incited a mob against the Copts and the church during a meeting in the mosque", giving rise to attacks and clashes. A mob with covered faces also burned the Mar Girgis kindergarten, a Baptist church and shops belonging to Christians.

According to witnesses, security forces arrived very late and clashes continued in their presence. The four Christians killed were Marsouq Atteya, Morkos Kamal, Victor Manqarios and Essam Zakhary. All were shot by automatic rifles in the face, the heart, the head and shoulders. The bullets were fired from the top down.

At the funeral yesterday in the Cathedral of St. Mark, those present began shouting slogans against President Morsi for the lack of security. On leaving the church, the funeral procession was attacked by unknown groups with stones and Molotov cocktails. The faithful responded by throwing stones in turn. In the clashes a Christian was killed. A church building caught fire, but the fire was extinguished. At the funeral there was little police presence who arrived in greater numbers following the unrest to dispel the crowds using tear gas. But sporadic incidents have also continued throughout the night.

President Mohamed Morsi phoned the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II to express his solidarity. "Every attack on the cathedral - he said - is an attack on my person." The Coptic Patriarch urged calm. The Muslim Brotherhood has called on everyone to "reject and condemn violence.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb has denounced the clashes and sent his representatives to the area to calm the situation. Tayyeb said that protecting Egypt from sectarian violence and racism is a religious and national duty because "the blood of all the Egyptians is precious."

But according to some priests, under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, the situation of Christians has worsened and the Christian minority accuses Morsi's government of failing to sufficiently protect their freedom.

 

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