Jihadists behind the attack against the Defence Ministry in Cairo
An extremist Jihadist fringe is behind yesterday's incidents in which three people were killed and more than 300 wounded. The brother of al Qaeda's leader was present at the protest, the spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church said. Weapons and ammunitions are found at a Salafist mosque. "People are against fundamentalism," Fr Greiche said.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Protests in Cairo yesterday afternoon and the attempt to storm the Defence Ministry were the work of a "jihadist fringe" that wants to seize power. Ordinary people backed the army because it "is against" fundamentalists taking over demonstrations or "extremists taking over power," said Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church. "The situation in the capital is currently calm", he told AsiaNews, but warned that we have to wait for this afternoon because it "is too early to know whether more will happen".

Three weeks from the first presidential elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, the situation remains tense as people expect more street demonstrations. Egypt's ruling military council imposed a 11 pm-7am curfew in the area around the Defence Ministry in Cairo after one soldier and two civilians were reported killed and more than 300 wounded (with more than 100 hospitalised) yesterday afternoon.

During the demonstrations, participants reached an area where supporters of ultra-rightwing Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismail were holding a sit-in in protest against his exclusion from the presidential election because his mother has dual US and Egyptian citizenship, which under Egyptian law bars him from running.

State television blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the unrest and clashes that ended with demonstrators throwing stones and police moving in.

"The presence at the protests yesterday and the days before of the elder brother of al Qaeda's current leader Ayman al Zawahiri is cause of concern," Fr Rafik Greiche told AsiaNews.

Equally worrisome is the appearance among the protesters of "people who clearly do not look Egyptian, from foreign countries," especially since "they were shouting their defiance at Barack Obama and chanting that Osama bin Laden was not dead."

For the spokesman of the Church in Egypt, "it is clear that Jihadists are trying to carve a place for themselves in the current situation."

What is more, "well-hidden ammunitions and weapons were found in a mosque not far from the area where demonstrations were held yesterday," Fr Rafik said. It is well known, he added, that "The mosque belongs to the Salafist movement."

Soldiers "had to intervene," he explained, in doing so they found support among ordinary people who do not want "Jihadists to take power". (DS)