Egyptian Deputy PM Quits Following Deadly Protests

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 9:40 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt's deputy prime minister resigned Tuesday in the wake of violent clashes between security forces and Coptic Christians that left 26 people dead.

State media reports gave no reason for Hazem El-Beblawi's departure. However, Egyptian news organizations quote a ministerial aide as saying he quit in protest of the handling of Sunday's clashes between security forces and Copts. He also served as finance minister.

The unrest began after after more than 1,000 Christians marched to the state television building in Cairo to protest a recent attack by Islamist radicals on a Coptic church in the country's south.

Witnesses say demonstrators began fighting with police and soldiers who were guarding the building. They also say security forces in armored vehicles drove into the crowd of protesters crushing some. Some Muslims joined the fighting.

More violence erupted on Monday outside a hospital where many of the wounded had been taken for treatment. Also Monday, thousands of people turned out for a mass funeral for the victims.

On Tuesday, Egypt's Coptic Christians began three days of mourning for the protesters killed during the street violence with security forces.

Coptic church leaders urged followers to fast and pray during the mourning period.

Egypt's ruling military council has ordered the government to investigate the violence.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's roughly 80 million people. Many complain that Egypt's new leadership has been too lenient on Islamists they blame for a series of anti-Christian attacks since a popular uprising forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The Coptic church issued a statement saying the minority community has suffered repeated problems and the perpetrators have gone unpunished.