Calm scenes at Egypt's Abbasiya Cathedral

Ahram Online, Monday 8 Apr 2013

Streets empty and roads open surrounding Coptic Christian main church, after funeral of Copts slain in sectarian clashes was attacked Sunday

Ramses street open in front of Abbasiya cathedral after clashes stopped (Photo: Bel Trew)

Clashes have abated around the besieged Coptic Christian cathedral in the Abbasiya district of Cairo following a night of intermittent street battles after a funeral for Copts killed in sectarian clashes in northern Egypt was attacked.

Security forces have now reopened Ramses Street, a major thoroughfare in front of the cathedral, and street cleaners are clearing the rubble left by the night of fighting which left one dead. The cathedral itself has shut its doors following the violence, small groups of worshippers are gathered outside attempting to get in.

Earlier state run news agency MENA reported that clashes had briefly renewed Monday morning.

Quoting MENA, Ahram’s Arabic news website stated that unknown assailants were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails from the top of adjacent buildings and Coptic-Christian young men responded in kind from on top of the Abbasiya Cathedral.

Clashes broke out on Sunday outside the headquarters of Coptic Church - which represents Egypt's largest Christian population - during a funeral for Copts killed in sectarian clashes with Muslims in Qalyubia (just north of Cairo) in some of the worst sectarian violence in Egypt in months.

Police then fired tear gas and birdshot directly into the compound of the place of worship, sparking uproar among the Christian community.

A health ministry official confirmed that at least 90, including at least 11 policemen, have been injured in the attack by unknown assailants at the Abbasiya Cathedral on Sunday.

Visiting European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, voiced fresh concerns in a statement on Sunday over the ongoing violence. She said she had contacted the president's office to call for self-restraint and urge security forces to control the violence.

For years, Christians have complained of several attacks on churches, incidents which further fuel their longstanding concerns over religious discrimination in a predominantly Muslim country.

The Muslim Brotherhood condemned late Sunday the violence in Qalioubiya, calling upon "patriotic figures, as well as religious and political institutions to promptly intervene to end such strife."

The group reiterated its "warning to all Egyptians of conspiracies being organised against them, their country and their revolution to provoke sectarian strife in society."

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