Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Egypt's ruling military council denies killing Coptic Christians

Egypt ruling's military council, facing its worst crisis since the fall of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, was on Wednesday forced into an extraordinary denial of claims it was responsible for violence in which at least 25 people, mostly Coptic Christians, died at the weekend.

By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent

4:42PM BST 12 Oct 2011

Under mounting pressure to explain the deaths of so many members of an often beleaguered minority, two generals spoke publicly to claim that the army was attacked by protesting Christians with swords and Molotov cocktails.

They denied numerous eye witness accounts and the testimony of hospitals that many of those who died were either shot by soldiers or run over by speeding army vehicles.

"This cannot be attributed to the armed forces, and this cannot be recorded in history, that the armed forces ran over people," said Gen. Adel Umara. He also denied that the soldiers had been issued with live bullets.

The violence broke out at the end of a march to Cairo's central television station by Christians protesting against attacks on churches by radical Islamists in the south of the country. But the fallout has given rise to claims that the army are deliberately inciting unrest to justify maintaining a grip on the country.

State television broadcast calls for Muslims to rally to the defence of the army, which it claimed was under attack from Christian mobs. But activists posted film online showing the army wading into apparently peaceful marchers.

Several videos showed armoured personnel carriers driving into the crowd at speed, and one showed a soldier firing into the crowd from the back of a van.

Some of the Christian activists involved also took part in the demonstrations which toppled Mr Mubarak in March, and have pointed to the similarity of the authorities' response. Like then, the army yesterday tried to blame the unrest on "third parties" – usually a reference to a foreign, particularly Israeli, conspiracy.

"The basic fact is there are enemies of the country who take advantage of the protests to infiltrate and realise destructive roles," the second general, Mahmoud Hegazi, said. "We should all be aware."

But the army council received a stern warning from the United States, which has provided extensive aid to the Egyptian military.

Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, warned the government "to ensure that the fundamental rights of all Egyptians are respected, including the rights of religious freedom, peaceful assembly and the end of military trials for civilians, and that efforts be made to address sectarian tensions".


No comments:

Post a Comment

Facebook Comments

My Blog List