Last Update 23:31

Attack on Cairo cathedral mourners leaves one dead

At least one person is killed outside Cairo's main Coptic Cathedral on Sunday night following attack by unknown assailants during funeral for victims of Saturday's sectarian bloodletting

Salma Shukrallah, Sunday 7 Apr 2013
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Abbasseya Church
A tear gas canister is fired by Egyptian riot police into the compound of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after the funeral of four Christians killed in sectarian clashes near Cairo over the weekend in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, April 7, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Unknown assailants attacked the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo's Abbasiya district on Sunday as hundreds of mourners held a funeral for victims of Saturday's sectarian clashes in the Qalioubiya governorate, north of Cairo. At least one was killed in the melee.

The Head of the Egyptian Ambulance Organisation, Mohamed Sultan, announced that one person had been killed after having been struck by birdshot outside Cairo's main Coptic cathedral. The identity of the deceased is yet to be revealed.

As of 6pm, the health ministry said that the injury toll had reached 29, at least two of which were in critical condition.

Moheb Fanous, director of a nearby Coptic hospital in which the injured are being treated, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website that Beshoy Wasfy, a 20-year-old journalist for independent daily Al-Shorouk, had sustained "critical injuries" to his neck after having been hit with birdshot.

Wasfy is currently in intensive care, said Fanous, who added that university student Nader Samy was also in critical condition after having been shot through the lungs.

After being pelted with stones, mourners at the cathedral responded by throwing stones back. Gunshots were heard during the subsequent clashes; some eyewitnesses confirmed that assailants used firearms.

Witnesses at the scene confirmed that teargas canisters had landed inside the cathedral's precincts. Other eyewitnesses said that unknown assailants dressed in plainclothes were hurling Molotov cocktails towards the cathedral.

A host of young assailants were seen on top of a nearby building throwing rocks at the cathedral.

Security forces, meanwhile, attempted to form a human shield across the street leading to the cathedral.

The precincts of the cathedral were completely emptied of people, excluding police forces, after nearly six hours of clashes. 

Hundreds of mourners had turned out for the funeral on Sunday for those killed in Saturday's sectarian clashes in Qalioubiya governorate.

In the early hours of Saturday, five people were shot to death – and at least eight injured – in Qalioubiya's Al-Khosous town. Four Christians and one Muslim were killed in the violence, Egypt's health ministry reported.

A Coptic priest, however, told the private CBC satellite channel on Sunday that six Copts had died and many more had been injured.

In Sunday’s funeral mass at the cathedral before violence erupted, coffins were surrounded by crosses and roses. Coptic Bishop Rafael performed prayers over the bodies of the slain.

Sobbing could be heard during the prayers, one Ahram Online journalist reported.

Soon after the prayers ended, funeral attendees began chanting angrily: "Leave, leave!" in reference to President Mohamed Morsi, and "Down with the rule of the [Muslim Brotherhood] supreme guide."

Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first-ever democratically elected president last summer. Critics argue the Brotherhood is the actual ruling body.

A protest march was scheduled to set off at noon from Saint Mark's Cathedral in Abassiya, following the Sunday mass.

Saturday's sectarian clashes in Qalioubiya broke out after a group of Christian teenagers reportedly painted offensive drawings on the gates of Egypt's Al-Azhar building, state news agency MENA reported.

The situation escalated further when someone fired a gun into the air, killing a young boy with a stray bullet, Reuters reported.

In the aftermath of the violence, 15 people were arrested and the area was cordoned off by police forces.

A number of Christian-owned shops were reportedly smashed by angry protesters. Reuters stated that some Christian and Muslim properties had been torched.

The violent attacks have sparked widespread condemnation by rights groups and politicians.

Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb called for the adoption of measures to prevent the situation from escalating further and to "preserve the national character of the Egyptian people, Muslims and Christians alike," MENA reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party on Saturday declared in a statement that the party was "sorry for the victims of these unfortunate clashes, regardless of their religion."

It called on authorities to "reveal the plots [aimed at sowing strife between different Egyptian groups], punish the perpetrators and curtail the threat."

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07-04-2013 09:31pm
Look, Egyptians always said that Egypt is mother of the world Now that the muslim brothers have taken over Egypt, The country is DOOMED for everybody ,who lives there. Egypt have for next 3 years no future. Morsi says that he is president for everybody, we havent seen nothing of the man who was saying that after he come president. The world have to see this THIS IS OUT OF CONTROL EGYPT IS A COUNTRY FOR HISTORY,TOURISTS,VACATION,MAKING FUN WITH EACH OTHER WE'VE BEEN CHEATEND
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07-04-2013 09:23pm
Why attack a Christian or Muslim funeral?
As an expatriate Christian who has lived in Egypt for 13 long years married to a moderate Muslim......I want to make one statement and ask one question. Firstly I wish to offer condolences on behalf of my husband and myself to the all the relatives of the victims. The question is 'why do Egyptians attack funerals whether they be Christian or Muslim funerals'? A funeral is a sorrowful and holy occasion in any religion, as mourners say 'farewell' to their loved ones, how can anyone show such blatant disrespect for the victims, mourners and the religion itself. WHY AND HOW?
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07-04-2013 08:11pm
recent Egypt violence
recent violence
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07-04-2013 05:20pm
Education is the main key
It is all start with education and not ignorance.
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07-04-2013 03:31pm
Stop attack against Copts
I am disgusted to hear such acts of brutality on Christians, Egypt is getting closer to become a failed state.
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Aly Sadek -CANADA
07-04-2013 05:16pm
Terrorists now politicians
My dear friend Mr. Tadros.....I'm deaply sadened

Souzan A
07-04-2013 03:29pm
Muslim Brothers should be banned
Christians have been killed ever since Muslim Brothers took over Egypt. Churches have been burnt. Christians have been deported. Mosques are used for political propaganda. Mosques are inciting hatred against Christians. Muslim TV channels are inciting hatred against Christians. Egypt is going down the drains! Ban Muslim Brothers and things will improve!
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Wounded knee
07-04-2013 09:13pm
Totally agree they belong in jail. And the Salafis too. They were there for good reason.
07-04-2013 09:04pm
this predates morsi and the ikhwan
this is problem that has unfortunately been around since our good friend mubarak. with or without the ikhwan things like this will continue to happen as long as people are not well educated. removal of the current government wether you like it or not isnt gonna help the situation, its just gonna make things worse.

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