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Salafist Muslims Attack Cairo Churches, 12 Dead

Twelve Egyptian Christians are dead following inter-religious violence in which conservative Salafist Muslims attacked multiple churches in the capital city of Cairo. According to the BBC, the violence is the result of a “security vacuum” created by the ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in February.

The latest violence, which follows a deadly March attack by a Muslim mob against a group of Christians protesting the burning of a church, began Saturday after hundreds of Salafists gathered outside the Coptic Christian St. Mena Church in Cairo’s working-class Imbaba neighborhood. The Muslims were protesting an allegation that a formerly Christian woman was being held there against her will after marrying a Muslim and converting to Islam.

St. Mena burns. (Photo: Ya Libnan)

According to the BBC, witnesses reported the violence began as a shouting match but soon escalated into stone throwing, firebombing and gunfire. St. Mena and another church, as well as numerous homes, were burned. The military and emergency services were slow to respond. By the time it was all over, 12 Christians were dead and 180 people were wounded. Some 190 people were detained afterward, with the Egyptian military vowing to respond to the crime with “an iron fist.”

“The Supreme Military Council decided to send all those who were arrested in yesterday’s events, that is 190 people, to the Supreme Military Court,” the army said on its Facebook page. That, it says, will serve as a “deterrent to all those who think of toying with the potential of this nation.” The army also promised to “restore all property and places of worship to how they were” before the incident.

Abdel Aziz al-Gindi, Egypt’s justice minister, said the government would “immediately and firmly implement the laws that criminalize attacks against places of worship and freedom of belief.” Such laws allow for the death penalty in the most severe cases.

Christian leaders have announced three days of mourning for the victims of the attack.

A crowd of hundreds gathered outside the headquarters of Egyptian state television to call for the ouster of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, claiming that the army is incapable of protecting them. That crowd was met by stone-throwing Muslims.

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