Cairo Clashes Leave 24 Dead And Over 200 Wounded
At least 24 Egyptians have died in Cairo after violent clashes erupted between protesting Christians and the army on Sunday. A further 200 were wounded in the worst violence the country has seen since February, when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
Demonstrations began outside the state TV building but eventually spread to Tahrir Square, which had been the epicentre of the protests against the former regime. Thousands joined in the street violence, hurling stones and parts of the pavement. Tear gas and smoke from burning military vehicles filled the air as the army wrestled to restore control.
The protest was a response to an attack on a church last week in southern Egypt. Coptic Christians blamed the attack on ultra-conservative Muslims. Thousands joined the Sunday protest which called for the sacking of the governor of Aswan, where the church attack took place.
Sectarian tensions have been simmering in the months since Mubarak was toppled and Christians, who make up 10 per cent of the population, have complained of increasing violence against them. In March, 13 people died in Tahrir Square in clashes between Muslims and Christians and a further 12 died in May in attacks on Coptic churches.
The country's acting prime minister, Essam Sharaf, appealed to Egypt's Muslims and Christians not to give in to sectarian divisions.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, echoed the Egyptian Prime Minister’s call for calm. He said in a statement:
"It is essential that all sides take immediate steps to engage in dialogue. The freedom of religious belief is a universal human right which needs to be protected everywhere".