Egypt’s Military Rulers Order Investigation of Cairo Clashes

Posted October 10th, 2011 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt's ruling military council has ordered the government to investigate the killings of at least 25 people in Sunday's deadly street battles between Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces in Cairo.

Egyptian state television says the military council issued the order Monday after crisis talks on the country's worst violence since a February uprising that ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak. The generals who took power from Mr. Mubarak also reiterated a pledge to hand power eventually to an elected civilian authority.

Egypt's military-appointed Cabinet held an emergency meeting Monday. In a nationally televised address late Sunday, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the violence had taken the country backward, instead of advancing towards a modern state based on democratic principles.

He blamed the fighting on what he called the “hidden hands” of foreign and domestic conspirators, but did not elaborate.

The battles erupted after thousands of minority Coptic Christians and their supporters marched to Egypt's state television building in Cairo to protest an attack by suspected Islamist radicals on a church in the country's south earlier this month.

The protest turned violent, with demonstrators fighting police and soldiers guarding the building. Several people were killed when an armored vehicle rammed into a group of protesters. Most of the 25 people confirmed dead were Coptic Christians.

Officials say assailants also opened fire on security personnel during the battle, killing at least two policemen. Almost 300 people were wounded in the unrest.

More violence erupted early Monday outside a Cairo hospital where many of the wounded were taken for treatment, with hundreds of people throwing stones at security forces.

Egyptian authorities said they have arrested dozens of people for involvement in the violence.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's roughly 80 million people. Many Christians complain that Egypt's new leadership has been too lenient on Islamists they blame for a series of anti-Christian attacks since the Mubarak ouster.