CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has condemned anti-Christian violence outside Cairo’s main church in which as many as two people were killed and up to 90 others were injured.
Sunday’s clashes erupted when Coptic Christian mourners were reportedly attacked by an angry Muslim mob as they left St. Mark’s Cathedral following a funeral.
“I consider any attack on the cathedral an attack against myself,” Morsi said in a statement published by the official MENA news agency.
The Christians were mourning the deaths of four Copts in sectarian violence on Saturday, April 6. One Muslim also died in those clashes in the town of Khusus, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of Cairo.
Officials said Saturday’s violence was triggered by young Muslims who drew upside down crosses on an Islamic institute, but there have been varying accounts among residents about what exactly caused the clashes.
On Sunday, April 7. tensions rose again with witnesses saying that fighting escalated out of a street brawl when Coptic activists tried to stop traffic to stage an anti-government march.
A mob, described by witnesses as residents of the area, pelted them with rocks and firebombs and fired birdshot, forcing them back inside the complex.
News reports sad that by the time police arrived in larger numbers, the church itself had become the scene of violence, between Christians barricaded inside and the mob outside, with the two sides exchanging rocks and firebombs.
Police reportedly fired tear gas, and gas canisters landing inside church grounds caused a panic among women and children.
People outside the church cheered. Some firebombs thrown from near the church landed at a nearby gas station, while witnesses said some in the church lobbed firebombs at the crowd outside.
Health Ministry official Khaled el-Khateib said that the identity of the second fatality was not immediately known while the first death was described as a Christian man.
The deadly violence over the weekend has marked a new low as Egypt struggles for stability following the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Christians say there have been a growing number of often deadly attacks in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of Mubarak gave more freedom to hardline Islamists who were repressed under his rule.
Egypt’s minority Christian community, which makes up some 10 percent of the population, has accused the government of failing in its duty to protect them following them.
The president’s Muslim Brotherhood group also said it was angry about the sectarian violence.
“Security authorities should take all measures to resolve the problem and religious figures should intervene to end the tension,” Freedom and Justice Party Chairman Saad el-Katatni said in a statement to media.
The U.S. Embassy in Egypt said in a statement Monday, April 8, that it welcomed Morsi’s promise to conduct a full and transparent investigation and conveyed condolences to the victims of the violence.
“It is the responsibility of the state to protect all of its citizens,” the statement said.