Sektarisme i Atfih

Ten killed as sectarian strife flares in Egypt ( Fra Almasry Al Youm)
<p>Priest shouting during protests, Radio and Television Building, downtown, 7 March, 2011. Thousands of Copts protests against torching a church located in Helwan governorate. Protesters called for restoring the church and impose punishment on those who ruined it.</p>
Photographed by Mohamed Abdel Ghany

Ten people were killed in violence between Egyptian Christian and Muslims, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as sectarian tensions that appeared to evaporate in the country’s revolution resurfaced.

The violence in Cairo on Tuesday night was the worst outbreak of sectarian strife since President Hosni Mubarak was swept from power on 11 February by a mass uprising characterised by solidarity between Christians and Muslims.

It was not immediately clear how many of the dead were Christian or Muslim. The violence had erupted following a protest by Christians over an arson attack on a church in Atfih, 80 km south of Cairo.

The health ministry said 110 people were wounded in the violence, the state news agency reported.

Sectarian clashes leave 10 dead and neighborhood in ruins
Wed, 09/03/2011 – 23:43
 <p>Egyptians stand near a fire set after clashes between Muslims and Egyptian Coptic Christians, Cairo, March 8, 2011. A Coptic Christian was killed in clashes with Muslims in Cairo, the same day at least 1,000 Christians gathered there to protest the burning of a church last week, a hospital official said.</p>

The streets of the Zaballine (Garbage Collectors’) Neighborhood lay littered with rocks, broken glass, and ashes that had blown from the charred remains of burned houses and factories following Tuesday night’s clashes that left at least ten dead. 

Residents from the Coptic neighborhood in the area of Manshiyet Nasser tell tales of raiding thugs from neighboring areas who descended upon them during protests in the wake of a church fire last Monday.

“This is the first time clashes this bad happened in the area since they eradicated the pigs. That time it was us against the security forces. This time it’s looking like more of a sectarian issue,” said Romany Sameer, a 24-year-old factory worker.  “Despite there being sectarian tension before, especially after the Two Saints [Church] bombing in Alexandra, there has never been such an organized attack on the Copts here before,” he said.

Coptic protesters had blocked the road leading up to Moqattam neighborhood at 12PM. Thugs appeared to emerge from behind soldiers at 3PM, immediately after the army shot warning shots into the air to disperse protests.

“The army was facing us, and the thugs were behind them, shooting and throwing rocks at us,” said Ameer Ramzy, 28. Residents from the area claim that the thugs shot at the protesters while some residents shot back. The rest threw rocks and exchanged Molotov cocktails. Unconfirmed reports claim that the thugs came from the adjacent al-Sayeda Zainab area and were organized by notorious ex-convicts. 

The Saint Samaan Church Hospital reported ten deaths–nine Coptic and one Muslim–as well as 88 injured. One of the injured, 13-year-old Girgis Soady, was shot in the arm and side on the way back from school at around 5:30PM.

The majority of deaths occurred between 11PM and 3AM when the thugs set upon the neighborhood from different entrances. “It is as if they were organized and had a plan. Around 500 entered from the smaller entrances, while at least a thousand came up from the main road,” said Romany.

They set alight five plastic reprocessing factories and vehicles used for garbage collecting and recycling. In front of the factories, three houses lay ashen from the thugs who had went in to loot and steal before setting them on fire using combustible propane tanks.

“They came into the house, mostly armed, and stole everything of value before setting the building on fire,” said Marianne Eid, whose family owns one of the torched factories across the street. Marianne added that the military spokesman to whom they complained asked for proof in order to open an investigation. “This isn’t proof enough?” she asked in disbelief.

Residents of the Coptic neighborhood say that there has never been sectarian strife of this magnitude before. “Some of them looked like they were the ex-convicts from neighboring areas, while others had big beards,” said Onsy a 27-year-old garbage man. Accounts from inside the neighborhood claim that the army had acted as a barrier in the beginning before turning their backs to the thugs. “They didn’t stop the thugs from entering,” said Ramzy.

Many claim that the bullets shot into the neighborhood are government-issued. “The army was shooting at us from above while the thugs were attacking us at night,” said Nagwa Anwar, whose house was also looted. Al-Masry Al-Youm was unable to confirm whether the bullets presented by the residents were shot during the clashes on Tuesday, or if they came from military hardware. 

One of those killed, 27-year-old Samaan Nazmy, a garbage man, was shot in the heart on the way back from work before midnight. “He was definitely shot with government issued bullets,” according to his brother–who left in distress before giving his name.

“The army would never open fire on people like this. If these people have bullets that were actually from government issued weapons then they must have been stolen,” said a military expert and former soldier who wished to remain anonymous.

Friends and families of the deceased are currently lobbying the St. Samaan Monastery to allow them to be buried on its sacred grounds. “As martyrs, we believe they should be buried in order to honor them,” said Onsy, whose relative was among those killed.

The army now holds the area which is on a plateau and completely cordoned off from below.  Only residents or people under military escort are allowed in. Residents from the area are bracing themselves, as rumors of new attacks have been circulating all day.  “Most of the people here are unarmed, but whoever has a gun is making sure they have bullets, to keep another massacre from happening tonight,” said Ramez, a 50-year-old shopkeeper.