VIDEO: Egypt's Coptic Christians living in fear
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Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population, are living in fear after a string of attacks against churches, businesses and homes they say were carried out by angry supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
Egypt's Christians have been victims of numerous attacks they say were perpetrated by supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who have themselves been the subject of a brutal crackdown by state police that began Wednesday.
Coptic Christians say they are living in fear after a string of attacks against churches, businesses and homes.
As police dispersed Morsi supporters from two Cairo squares on Wednesday, attackers torched churches across the country in an apparent response.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a local NGO, said at least 25 churches were torched on Wednesday and Thursday, and that attackers also targeted Christian schools, shops and homes across 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces.
Adel Guindy, President of the US-based Coptic Solidarity, said the number of attacks was much higher: “Some fifty establishments have been attacked, of which eighteen churches and convents and schools were attacked and burned yesterday. They were sacked completely.”
Guindy said Morsi supporters had targeted them in response to Coptic Pope Tawadros II's support for the July 3 coup that ousted the Islamist leader.
“Copts are paying the price for standing with the rest of Egyptians, their compatriots,” he told FRANCE 24. “You know 30 million people went out on the streets the end of June demanding the ousting of Morsi and his regime, the totalitarian regime.”
The Maspero Youth Union, which documented abuses against Christians during Morsi's one year in office, also laid blame for the attacks on supporters of the ousted leader.
"Maspero Youth Union condemns the terrorism Copts are facing now in Egypt after supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi waged a retaliation war against Copts and their churches, homes and businesses," the group said.
"Copts were attacked in nine governorates, causing panic, losses and destruction for no reason and no crimes they committed except being Christians."
Morsi's supporters have often accused Christians of supporting former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in Egypt's 2011 uprising. Ironically, Christians were also targeted when Mubarak was in power.
On Thursday, the country's interim army-installed government described attacks on Egypt's Christians as a "red line" and pledged that authorities would "respond forcefully" to any new attack.
Shortly afterwards, the defence minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led the coup, pledged that the military would pay for the rebuilding of the churches attacked on Wednesday.
‘No such attacks are justifiable’, says Muslim Brotherhood
On Thursday morning, interim prime minister Hazem Beblawi also announced he had met with Coptic Pope Tawadros II to express solidarity in the wake of the attacks.
The Muslim Brotherhood made its first comment on the attacks on Thursday evening – a condemnation tempered by the assertion that many Copts supported Morsi's ouster.
"Although some Coptic leaders supported or even participated in the coup, for one reason or another, no such attacks can be justifiable," the group's political arm said on its official Twitter account.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad had earlier suggested authorities were to blame.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)