Egypt's Islamists blamed for attack on 60 churches


Coptic Christian Churches Burning in Egypt-by-Islamists-300x225Egypt’s interim regime blamed Islamists for attacks on 60 churches immediately following the regime’s bloody raid on two Islamist protest camps in Cairo.

The Coptic Christian churches were vandalized, and in many cases set on fire, in a surge of anti-Christian violence after the Aug. 14 raid and ensuing violence that led to the deaths of more than 900 Morsi supporters.

The pro-Brotherhood Anti-Coup Alliance put the death toll at about 1,400.

The attacks — also aimed at homes, shops, police stations, schools, youth clubs and other public buildings — showed why the regime is cracking down on the Islamist religious, political and social movement, officials said.

The New York Times said at least one orphanage was also attacked.

The regime called Christians victims of Brotherhood “terrorism” and cited the church damage as added validation for its drive against the Islamist group, The Wall Street Journal said.

Coptic Christians, who represent 10 percent to 15 percent of the country’s 93 million people, accused the government of using them to legitimize the anti-Brotherhood crackdown.

“The government is trying to use the Christians in Egypt to justify their attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bishop Makarias, the head of the Coptic community in Minya province, 160 miles south of Cairo, told the Journal.

“They’re trying to use this to pressure the Western Christians” to support the military-backed government, he said.

churches on fire in EgyptThe interim regime denied this. The Foreign Affairs Ministry blamed the Brotherhood and other Islamists for methodically attacking the churches and other buildings to create chaos.

Brotherhood leaders have condemned the church attacks and denied any involvement. They blamed thugs contracted by police to justify the anti-Islamist crackdown.

The Coptic Christian Maspero Youth Union said at least 60 churches, most of them in Egypt’s Nile Valley, were attacked and about 38 were destroyed.

At least six people were killed in the attacks, it said.

But while the government publicly condemned the attacks, the army and police watched and did nothing to stop them, the Times said and other news outlets reported.

Many residents told The Washington Post police were complicit in the attacks, at least by not doing anything to stop them.

And a week after the attacks started, the regime has not investigated any of them, nor has it provided additional security to most churches, Christian activists and church officials cited by the Post said.

The regime had no immediate comment.

At the same time, the Brotherhood vowed no violence after its spiritual leader was arrested and charged with killing protesters.

“Our only option is the peaceful method,” Khaled Hanafi, secretary-general of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told a news conference in Cairo.

The arrest and detention of Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie Tuesday would not change the group’s non-violent approach, he said.

“We regret the arrest of Dr. Badie, but we have chosen a path, and regardless of the sacrifices, we must continue,” Hanafi said.

Badie, 70, the group’s spiritual leader, was interrogated and held on a variety of charges, including inciting the killing of protesters who stormed and ransacked the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters June 28, government-owned newspaper al-Ahram reported.

He is also accused of possessing arms, running an illegal gang and assaulting the military.

Judge Tamer el-Araby, head of the south Giza prosecution office, said Badie’s criminal trial would begin Sunday, al-Ahram said.

The trial will include five other top Brotherhood leaders, including Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat el-Shater, its chief strategist and financier, the newspaper said.

Separately, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace laureate who briefly served as Egypt’s vice president after Morsi’s ouster, was accused in a lawsuit of “betrayal of trust” for quitting in protest over the bloody Aug. 14 raid by Egyptian security forces.

ElBaradei — a former head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency and a leader of a prominent coalition of liberal and secular Egyptian forces — initially endorsed the popular uprising that swept Morsi from power July 3.