By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- The leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church on Saturday, August 17, condemned "dark terrorists" who he said are terrorizing Christians and Muslims as the death toll of this week's violence rose to more than 700 people.
The remarks by Pope Tawadros II came while the government said it was considering to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood party of ousted President Mohamed Morsi as the nation was facing "war by the forces of extremism."
Dozens of churches, Bible Society shops, Christian homes and businesses across the country were targeted by hard-line Morsi supporters linked to the Brotherhood and Islamic gunmen who view Christians as being supportive of the current interim-government. Several Christians are among the dead and injured.
Pope Tawadros II said in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife that "The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt...confirms its strong stance with the Egyptian law enforcement, the armed forces, and all of the institutions of the Egyptian people in its confrontation of the violent armed organizations."
He called those groups "dark terrorists, both internal and external" who are involved in "the attacks on the government offices as well as our peaceful churches" and "terrorizing our citizens both Coptic and Muslim."
However questions have also been raised about the security crackdown on Morsi supporters with reports that security forces besieged a Cairo mosque Saturday, August 17, full of Islamist protesters after a day of clashes that left more than 80 dead.
Additionally, The Washington Post newspaper reported on its website Saturday, August 17, that two weeks before "the bloody crackdown in Cairo", the Obama administration, working with European and Persian Gulf allies, believed it was close to a deal to have Islamist supporters of ousted president Morsi disband street encampments in return for a pledge of nonviolence from Egypt’s interim authorities.
The deal was allegedly rejected by the government, which ordered its security forces to break up the protests, a decision that has resulted in hundreds of deaths and street clashes and the reported destruction of at least 52 churches.
Former Egyptian vice president Mohamed ElBaradei appeared to back the deal but could not convince General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the head of the military, said Bernardino León, the European Union’s envoy for Egypt. ElBaradei resigned after violence erupted.
However Pope Tawadros II accused Western media of involvement in "legitimizing these bloody terrorist organizations and all its affiliations with international support and political protection" while in reality "they are attempting to spread devastation and destruction in our dear nation."
The Coptic leader supported the ouster of Morsi, amid fears of more Islamic attacks against the Christian minority.
As he issued his statement, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace and reconciliation in Egypt.
In a statement, the vice-director of the Vatican Press Office, Ciro Benedettini, said the leader of the world's over 1 billion Catholics “continues to follow with growing concern the serious news coming from Egypt and continues to pray for end to violence, and that the parties choose the path of dialog and reconciliation.”
Earlier in the week, during the Angelus prayer on the Feast of the Assumption Pope Francis launched an urgent appeal for peace in Egypt, assuring "the victims, their families, the wounded and those who suffer" of his prayers. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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