CAIRO: Thousands gathered Thursday morning at Samaan El-Kharraz Church in Moqattam for a funeral for those killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians Tuesday night.
Thirteen were killed in the clashes, at least five of them were Muslim. Seven coffins were seen at the church on Thursday.
Residents of the Manshiyet Nasser district headed to the sermon around 10 am Thursday after tensions escalated between Muslims and Copts following the burning down of a church in Efteeh, Helwan earlier this week, leaving 165 wounded, according to a volunteer at the Church’s hospital.
According to family members and neighbors, most of those dead and wounded are of young age.
Coffins were reportedly taken to a cemetery in Al-Gabal Al-Akhdar, Nasr City.
At the end of the sermon, mourners erupted in anger when the priest thanked military officials for protecting Egyptians. “No, No,” they chanted loudly. High ranking military officers attended the funeral but didn’t address the mourners.
According to Romani, 31, one of the protestors who preferred not to state his last name, the army facilitated the shootings.
“Thugs attacked us from atop army tanks,” he told Daily News Egypt.
Tuesday’s clashes erupted between residents of the Zabaleen area of Manshiyet Nasser and residents from Sayeda Aisha, a neighboring area. Clashes took place at the entrance of the Zabaleen on Autostrad Road after hundreds of protestors gathered there around 1 pm, eventually bringing the road to a standstill.
According to Romani, a verbal spat between a microbus driver and one of the protestors over blocking the road ended with a beat-up driver. As a result, residents from Sayeda Aisha gathered in the face of protesters from Zabaleen. Eyewitnesses from the Sayeda Aisha neighborhood had told DNE on Wednesday that they were informed that Coptic protesters were coming to burn the iconic mosque of the same name.
At around 4:30 pm, Romani recalled, the army intervened, forming a human barrier between both camps.
“Then they started to slowly encroach on us, allowing the thugs to attack us,” he said.
Shehata El Me’adis, former parliamentary candidate of Manshiyet Nasser, whose house is at the entrance of Zabaleen, overlooking Autostrad Road, said: “Thugs came in hiding in tanks.”
“This is not a sectarian issue. These were like the mercenaries hired by [Libya’s Moammar] Gaddafi,” he added.
Elia Refaat, a protestor on the scene, said their attackers were both thugs and regular citizens, carrying knives, Molotov cocktails and pencil guns.
“My son Hanna went out to help his friend and he got shot with 2 rubber bullets near his heart,” Om Botrous, a mother of one of the wounded, told DNE after the funeral.
Her son, 25, remains in an unstable condition at Al Zahraa’ Hospital.
“They left people in Tahrir to protest; why are they shooting us?” said Mariam Nady, 24, a resident of Zabaleen.
While some blamed the army for allegedly siding with the thugs, others remained adamant the tension was sectarian, orchestrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“This is a scheme by the Muslim Brotherhood; they want to silence us one more time,” said Mahboub Fahmy, a primary teacher in a local school.
“Look at the committee assigned to amend the constitution; it has three members from the Brotherhood; [Head of Armed Forces Hussein] Tantawi is affiliated with the Brotherhood,” he claimed, referring to a committee assigned by the High Council of Armed Forces last month to propose constitutional amendments after Jan. 25 revolution.
One of the members of the committee, lawyer Sobhi Saleh, is a former MP affiliated with the Brotherhood. Tantawi, who is also the minister of defense, has no known affiliation with the group.
Hundreds chanted against Tantawi on their way out of church on Thursday.
Fahmy went on to blame school curricula’s for inciting sectarian tension, which have for years excluded Coptic history. “During the revolution, solidarity was only in slogans; the reality is much different.”
Other residents told DNE they believe aids of former president Hosni Mubarak are behind the attacks, accusing them of inciting chaos to weaken Egyptians in the form of a counter revolution.
At the sermon, mourning families broke up in wails, with more than one fainting briefly. Several priests alternated in leading prayers, urging Christians to be patient and remain close to God.