EGYPT: Hundreds protest to denounce terrorist attack on Coptic Christians
Hundreds of Egyptians took part in a demonstration Sunday morning to condemn the church explosion that took the lives of 21 Coptic Christians in the coastal city of Alexandria in the early hours of 2011.
In the suburb of Shubra, downtown Cairo, some 500 Muslim and Coptic activists, politicians and other civil society leaders led a protest to show solidarity with the Egyptian Coptic minority and to denounce Saturday's deady assault.
Marchers shouted the slogans, "A Muslim and a Copt hand in hand to create a new dawn," and "Not a police state, not a religious state, we want Egypt to be a secular state," as they carried banners showing the crescent along with the cross, which has been a historical symbol of unity between Egyptian Muslims and Copts.
Protesters were swiftly surrounded by police officers, who feared that clashes might erupt between the protesters and bitter Coptic inhabitants of the area.
The neighborhood of Shubra is one of few suburbs in the capital where large communities of Christians live alongside Muslims.
An attack outside a church in Alexandria right after midnight left 21 Copts and tens others injured, the deadliest incident of a string of clashes related to Copts in Egypt that surfaced in recent years.
In a televised address on Saturday, President Hosni Mubarak said that the attackers "will be making a grave mistake if they think that they will be spared the punishment of Egyptians for their act."
Copts account for 10% of the country's population of 82 million.
In Alexandria, hundreds of Muslims and Copts took part in another demonstration nearby the scene of the killings, where they demanded a transparent and public investigation into the terror attack and called on authorities to announce details of the crime as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Interior had earlier announced that the assault was carried out by a suicide bomber, following the Alexandria's governor's claims that Al Qaeda could be behind the explosions.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: An Egyptian Christian mourns as he stands next to a blood-stained painting of Jesus Christ on Jan. 2, 2011 outside the Al-Qiddissine (The Saints) church in Alexandria, following a New Year's Eve car bomb attack on the Coptic church in the northern Egyptian city in which 21 people were killed. Credit: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images