Egyptian Coptic demonstrators carry Christian crosses during a Copts demonstration that developed into clashes with army soldiers in Cairo on Sunday.
Ongoing tensions between Christians, Muslims and the military came to a head Sunday when riots broke out on the streets of Egypt as Christians protested the attack on a church. At least 25 have been reported dead with nearly 300 reported injured, the worst violent outbreak to emerge in Egypt since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Sunday night’s violence began when about 1,000 Coptic Christian protesters attempted to hold a sit-in outside the state television building along the Nile in downtown Cairo. Protesters said they were attacked by “thugs” with sticks and said the violence then exploded when a speeding military vehicle jumped up onto a sidewalk and rammed into some of the Christians, Associated Press reports. By Monday, violence continued as several hundred Christians gathered outside the Coptic hospital, where Christian victims were taken the night before, and pelted police with rocks.
The Christians belong to an ancient sect, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which split with other Christians over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ in the 5th century.
Protesters were rallying against a series of anti-Christian attacks prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. After a riot broke out near the city of Aswan, the city’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, exacerbated tensions by telling the media that the church construction was illegal. Christian protesters are demanding for the governor’s abdication from power, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf expressed grief over the casualties, which include civilians and military. "Instead of going forward, we found ourselves scrambling for security," Sharaf said Monday on state television in an early morning speech, reports CNN.
Tensions have been on the rise between the military and the groups that initiated the uprising. Activists have blamed the generals for mishandling the transition period after Mubarak’s ousting, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and other Egyptians.
(Photo: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)