12/28/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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The Egyptian population is exacerbated by Islamic terrorists, says Catholic Church spokesman

For Fr Rafic Greiche, "Islamists are trying to sow terror in the population to influence the outcome of the referendum on the Constitution." Egyptian authorities fear more terrorist attacks after a car bomb strikes a police station in Mansoura and a bus blows up near the al-Azhar university.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Tension are rising in Egypt after a recent spate of terrorist attacks, including a car bomb near a police station in Mansoura (Cairo) and an explosion on a bus near Nasr City near the Islamic University of al-Azhar. Similarly, fear is growing of possible terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians as Orthodox Christmas (7 January) approaches after the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist group," a decision that might trigger a wave of violence similar to what happened on 14 August.

"The risk of violence is high," Egyptian Catholic Church spokesman Fr Rafic Greiche told AsiaNews, "and so is fear among Christians. Yet this atmosphere has not prevented Catholics from celebrating Christmas and the same will happen for Orthodox Copts."

At present, the army and police have started to implement various security measures to protect places of worship ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations on 7 January.

Many fear violent demonstrations and attacks as the second hearing of the trial against former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi gets underway on 8 January 2014.

Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II is discussing with the police the possibility of advancing religious services to defend better Coptic places of worship from possible terrorist attacks.

For Fr Greiche, the country is now being hammered by Islamic terrorism. "Every day there is an attack, but the one against the police station was the worst, killing 15 people with dozens of wounded. The Muslim Brotherhood is now allied with al-Qaeda linked Islamic terrorist groups responsible for several attacks in the Sinai Peninsula."

"Islamists are trying to sow terror in the population," the priest said, "in order to influence the outcome of the referendum on 14 and 15 January 2014."

According to the Catholic Church spokesman, a small, violent minority is holding the country hostage and people are tired of the situation.

"After a car bomb exploded near a police station in Mansoura, residents attacked several shops owned by the Muslim Brotherhood. People are exasperated by these terrorist groups," he explained.

The Egyptian government's decision to add the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of terrorist groups has increased the risk of terrorist acts. But there is nothing extraordinary about it, Fr Greiche noted.

"Until 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood was on the US and Europe's list of terrorist groups but was later mysteriously rehabilitated," he said. "Now they are back on the list because their actions and behaviour are typical of terrorist movements".

In Cairo's slums, fear and discouragement strike indistinctly Muslims and Christians. Most Coptic churches are located in districts with a Muslim majority.

In the capital and other big cities, police cannot protect the population, and where the authorities are not present, Islamic extremists have imposed their rule.

On 23 October, in the village of Tarshoub (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt), hundreds of Islamists instigated by an imam from the Muslim Brotherhood stormed Christian homes, and shut down the local church. Ostensibly, the appointment of a new pastor had triggered the Islamist reaction.

So far, police have not arrested the attackers and the church remains closed.

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