Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coptic Christians protest outside White House against violence in Egypt

Coptic Christians protest outside White House against violence in Egypt
“It is like a horrible nightmare. We watch on TV and see our people being run over by tanks,” said Mary Wassef, 66, who took a bus with friends from her church in northern New Jersey. “This is my church and my homeland. But now they want to force all Christians to convert or leave. If you hang a cross in your car, they pull you out and smash you to pieces.”

Christians in Egypt are a deeply rooted minority of about 10 million in a largely Muslim society of 81 million. Long-simmering tensions between the two groups have escalated since January, when a popular uprising in Cairo led to the fall of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak but left the country in a state of political turmoil.

Many Christians in the Egyptian American diaspora of about half a million, scattered across a dozen states, have expressed concern that radical Islamist groups are seeking to dominate the post-revolutionary scene and to turn Egypt into a Sunni theocracy. Some placards at the rally Wednesday warned of an “Islamic jihad” against Christians.

The demonstrators also expressed fear that the Egyptian army, a longtime bulwark of Mubarak’s power, is becoming a repressive force against Christians. Many held up bloody photos of crushed torsos and limbs, which they said had been deliberately run over by tanks Oct. 9. Hundreds chanted “shame on the army” and called for the ouster of its national commander, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.

“We Christians have faced Islamic oppression for 1,400 years, but now it is getting much more ugly,” said Ghada Nasr, 35, a small business owner from Newark, Del., whose parents live in Egypt. “The army should be protecting people, not crushing them. Our religion is peaceful, but it is time for us to act.”

Traditionally, leaders of the Coptic church in Egypt have tried to avoid provoking Egyptian authorities. The rally Wednesday was peaceful, and protesters interspersed chants for justice with hymns calling for God’s mercy in Arabic, English and ancient Coptic. Organizers said the presence of numerous senior Coptic priests — several gray-bearded, one in a wheelchair — had the blessing of their orthodox pope in Cairo.

“We need an Egyptian Martin Luther King to lead our people to freedom,” said George Ibrahim, 66, a retired civil engineer who emigrated from Egypt in the 1940s and lives in Ashburn. Unlike Copts in Egypt, who have long been ostracized, many of those who came to the United States are well established, successful professionals. In the greater Washington area, many work for the federal government.

A major demand of the demonstrators was that the Obama administration, which has continued the long U.S. alliance with Egypt and provides it with hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid each year, pressure Cairo by conditioning further assistance to improvements in human rights and religious freedom.

“If we are calling them an ally, then we should not be paying with U.S. taxpayers’ money for bullets and weapons that are being used to oppress Christians,” said Michael Ruzek, 30, a medical doctor from New Jersey who attended the rally. Protesters placed a row of black wooden coffins along the sidewalk in front of the White House.

An advocacy group called Coptic Solidarity, which helped organize the rally, also called for an impartial investigation into the Oct. 9 violence, prosecution of official perpetrators, and full enactment of a bill that Congress passed in July that would create a U.S. envoy to the Middle East for religious minorities.

The circumstances of the Oct. 9 clashes in Cairo, in which Christian and Muslim protesters were involved in hours of battles with police and troops, remain confused. The day after the incident, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Obama was “deeply concerned” about the violence and “believes that the rights of minorities, including Copts, must be respected,” but he stopped short of blaming the government and called for “restraint on all sides.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 12, 2011- Religious Violence in Egypt.ts

Coptic Christians Need Protection -- Will the U.S. Help Them? >
Coptic Christians in Egypt, the largest contingent of Christians in the country, are under severe attack — so much so that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced just recently that Egypt made the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”..
Coptic Christians Need Protection -- Will the U.S. Help Them?
Coptic Christians in Egypt, the largest contingent of Christians in the country, are under severe attack — so much so that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced just recently that Egypt made the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”..

October 12, 2011- Religious Violence in Egypt.ts

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Video of deadly Egypt riots as Christians clash with police, Muslims

Egypt's Military Vows to Get Tough After Clashes

Raw Video: Deadly Sectarian Violence in Cairo

CBC News: Deadly violence in Egypt - October 10, 2011

Deadly violence in Egypt CNN

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the situation in Egypt

9 May 2011
Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement on the situation in Egypt:

“The Government of Canada strongly condemns the violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

“Canada is a tolerant, multicultural country with a proud tradition of defending religious minorities around the world. We stand behind the Coptic Christian community and their right to practice their faith in safety and security, free of persecution. This is a universal human right and one which our Government is committed to defending.

“Recognizing that religious pluralism is inextricably linked to democratic development, our Government has committed to creating a special Office of Religious Freedom to monitor and help ensure religious minorities can practice their faith without fear of violence and repression.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I express my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones during these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with all Egyptians as they face the difficult challenges ahead.”

An Appeal for Immediate Intervention from the International Community to Protect Egyptian Copts

Voice of the Copts
A non profit human rights organization working to free the oppressed and persecuted Coptic Christians of Egypt.

In light of the current attack upon Copts protesting in Cairo where 36 Copts were murdered and many more injured by Egyptian military forces together with Muslim militants, Voice of the Copts is appealing to the international community for immediate help.

Beginning at 3:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, Oct 9, in Shubra district of Cairo, more than 100,000 Copts and some Muslims marched peacefully together for more than two miles toward Tahrir Square shouting slogans in protest of theMuslim burning of Marinab Coptic Church in Edfo in Upper Egypt a few days earlier.

During an orderly approach by Coptsto the Maspiro area, Muslim groups began throwing stones and malotov cocktails at the crowd of protesters. The military began shooting live bullets into the protesters and then drove speeding armored cars and tanks directly into the crowd. Meanwhile, Copts were unable to get to safety because they were held back by Muslim militant criminals released from jails earlier this yearby the former Mubarak regime at the beginning of the revolution.

The apparent cooperation between Egyptian military forces and Muslim groups who gathered to protect army personnel as requested by National Public TV prior to the start of the Copts' protest, reveals the true nature of Egypt's interim regime. Lingering attachments to the Mubarak regime combined with Islamic interests spells the beginning of the end for Copts and freedom and justice. Equality under the law is now impossible with what seems to be the real aim of those in power -- to annihilate the Copts of Egypt.

Voice of the Copts would like to thank the Muslim citizens who stood in solidarity with the Copts demanding freedom of religion, justice and equality.

Furthermore, Coptic clergy, especially Father Filipert and Father Meytias, are now being intimidated by death threats which indicate that military rulers are plotting to silence them due to their activities among the Coptic population. As a consequence of this and from this point on, we, as Voice of the Copts, deem any murder or accidental death of any Coptic clergy to be nothing less than an assassination carried out by the state.

Voice of the Copts calls for immediate action to be taken by Western governments to protect Egyptian citizens from the violent acts of the Egyptian state military and police force who ignore the law and defy their given responsibility to protect all citizens equally. Military leaders, putting their own greed before the interests of the country and, by doing so, promote Islamic interests, damage any hope of democracy. Field Marshall Tantawi and his henchmen must immediately step down from governing Egypt's post-revolutionary efforts.

revenge from israel islamic army killing copts

By: Nabil Bissada

On Sunday October 9, 2011 more than 150,000 Coptic -Christians of Egypt (with the authorization of the Islamic Egyptian government) gathered in a peaceful protest because of the attacks against the Coptic and their churches by Islamic Egyptian army. Protest took place in Cairo the Egyptian capital.

The Islamic Egyptian Army and their allies have never won a war against Israel. Now the Egyptian army has adopted Nazis tactics against Christian Egyptians.

The Islamic Egyptian army is supported by The Muslims Brotherhood and other Muslims organizations. They are using terror tactics, which include the use of guns, tanks and explosives bullets to destroy the Copts.

The Islamic Egyptian Army has killed in excess of 55 peaceful Copts protesters and wounded over 300. That numbers includes men, women and children.

The Islamic Egyptian Army is using the government run media to conceal their actions.

The Copts are more than 25% of the popular in Egypt. The Islamic Egyptian government are consider them as a 3rd class citizen.( Muslims Egyptian, Muslims from out, the Copts)

We ask The United Nations, United States of America, The European Union, Israel, Russia, and all others country who believe in human rights and freedom of religion to protect over 25 Millions Coptic native of Egypt who are living under threat and siege to push them to convert to Islam religion or to leave Egypt.

The National American Coptic Assembly & the Coptic Nation announced sad days for the genocide and Nazis for the Holocaust against the Copts in Egypt.

Inside Cairo's Riots: The Egyptian Junta's True Colors

Written by Time Mag
11 October 2011

Coptic mourners chanted slogans against the military: "Tantawi you traitor, the blood of Copts is not cheap,"

Clouds of tear gas released and protesters crushed and killed by military vehicles
that reportedly rammed into them

The dead were buried on Monday, more than two dozen Christian Egyptian protesters mowed down by their own military, an army that had won praise back in February for refusing to turn its weapons on demonstrators. After Sunday night's violence, which left 24 dead and more than 270 wounded, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry, the Arab Spring seems a long time ago.

A military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi is now in charge of Egypt, and it is resurrecting many of the tactics of deposed President Hosni Mubarak to instill fear and keep the citizenry in line, like using state TV to spread sectarian suspicion and conspiratorial talk of "foreign hands" sowing internal discord.
Sunday's march in Cairo by Coptic Christians — with a fair smattering of sympathetic Muslim participation as well — started out as a peaceful protest against the recent burning of a church by ultraconservative Muslims and the perceived lackadaisical response by the ruling military junta to a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak's ouster. Events rapidly devolved into chaos, with live ammunition fired, clouds of tear gas released and protesters crushed and killed by military vehicles that reportedly rammed into them. Some protesters responded by throwing rocks. (See pictures of the Coptic Christians' march in Cairo.)

State TV had another narrative: a violent mob of Christians sparked the melee by attacking the military, killing several soldiers. Breathless anchors urged "honorable" citizens to head down along the Nile to the national media building at Maspero to help soldiers defend themselves and public property. The clashes reignited on Monday, when Christians pelted security forces with rocks outside the Cairo hospital where the bodies of victims were taken the previous night. The Coptic church on Monday disputed state TV's claims, saying there was no evidence that Christian protesters shot at soldiers. Church officials called for a three-day fast to protest the events.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Essam el-Erian condemns the violence, telling TIME that this is a critical period for the country, a "time for solidarity, to implement a state of law, and to make reconciliation between all sections of society."

Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10% of the country's 80 million or so people, have watched warily as Salafists and other ultraconservative Muslims, long kept underfoot by Mubarak, have begun exercising their political rights — and influence — in the wake of the February revolution. At 8 million or so, Egypt's Copts are easily one of the biggest Christian communities in the Middle East, but unlike the much smaller Christian population in Lebanon, for example, they lack political muscle. (Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East with a Christian head of state mandated by political consensus.) (See TIME's exclusive pictures of the turmoil in Egypt.)

It's a trying period for the Middle East's dwindling Christian communities as secular pan-Arab, anti-Islamist regimes fall by the wayside and leave political vacuums in their place. The precedent of Iraq looms large. There were some 800,000 Christians in the country before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein. Since then, hundreds of thousands have fled the war-ravaged state. In majority-Sunni Syria, the minority Christians have largely sided with Bashar Assad's brutal regime in public, fearful of what may follow it, although many prominent Christians are also part of the opposition. "This is a dangerous period, one that will determine in which direction the country is going," says Emad Gad, a Copt and leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic party. "Are we taking the first steps toward creating a real state or are we going toward sectarian conflict and war?"

Sunday's violence in Cairo has significance beyond the country's religious divisions. This is a wider conflict in which Egyptians of all religions are turning against a military regime that just eight months ago was hailed for ensuring a peaceful transfer of power after Mubarak was forced from office. The fruits of Egypt's revolution have yet to be savored by millions who hoped a quick revolution would bring even quicker economic, social and political benefits. The economy has slumped, and the generals — who initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months — seem increasingly comfortable at the helm. Their recently announced electoral timetable would keep them in charge until presidential elections in 2013, much to the ire of many. "I don't think we'll have elections at all," Gad says, echoing a sentiment relayed on Twitter and other social media. "I think that the army let the violence happen so that it could cancel the elections and remain in power."

The Brotherhood's el-Erian warns against any delay to the elections. "We cannot move forward without elections," he tells TIME. "We can overcome all of these trials with solidarity and national consensus ... The people are waiting for elections and to have a new system."

As the exuberance of Arab Spring becomes a faraway memory in the Middle East, a counterrevolution is gaining ground, exploiting the sectarianism that power brokers in the region have long used to keep their populations at bay. Will Egyptians and other Arabs see through it? Or will they be sucked into its vortex? What happens next on Cairo's streets will be critical.

Egypt’s Coptic church says repeated attacks on Christians go unpunished

Washington Post
10 Oct 2011

State TV, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks by the Christian protesters outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

Egyptian relatives of Copts who were killed by the Egyptian army
late Sunday, react after seeing their bodies outside the morgue
of the Copts’ hospital in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011.

CAIRO — Egypt’s Coptic church blasted authorities Monday for allowing repeated attacks on Christians with impunity as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to 26, most of them Christians who were trying to stage a peaceful protest in Cairo over an attack on a church.

The spiritual leader of the Coptic Christian minority, Pope Shenouda III, declared three days of mourning, praying and fasting for the victims starting on Tuesday and also presided over funerals for some of the Christians killed. Sunday’s sectarian violence was the worst in Egypt since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

“Strangers got in the middle of our sons and committed mistakes to be blamed on our sons,” the Coptic church said in a statement. It lamented “problems that occur repeatedly and go unpunished.”

The clashes Sunday night raged over a large section of downtown Cairo and drew in Christians, Muslims and security forces. They began when about 1,000 Christian protesters tried to stage a peaceful sit-in outside the state television building along the Nile in downtown Cairo. The protesters said they were attacked by “thugs” with sticks and the violence then spiraled out of control after a speeding military vehicle jumped up onto a sidewalk and rammed into some of the Christians.

There is no precise breakdown of how many Christians and Muslims were among the victims, but the 26 are believed to be mostly Christian. Officials said at least three soldiers were among the dead. Nearly 500 people were injured. Egypt’s official news agency said dozens have been arrested.

Much smaller skirmishes broke out again Monday outside the Coptic hospital where many of the Christian victims were taken the night before. Several hundred Christians pelted police with rocks outside while the screams of grieving women rang out from inside the hospital. Some of the hundreds of men gathered outside held wooden crosses and empty coffins were lined up outside the hospital.

There were no word on casualties from the new clashes.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt and called for restraint on all sides.

“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities - including Copts - must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom,” a White House statement said. “These tragic events should not stand in the way of timely elections and a continued transition to democracy that is peaceful, just and inclusive.”

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, blame the ruling military council that took power after the uprising for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. The chaotic power transition has left a security vacuum, and the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about a show of force by ultraconservative Islamists, known as Salafis.

In recent weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

Aswan’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

Christian protesters are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

The European Union strongly condemned the violence.

“It is about time that the Egyptian leadership understands the importance of religious plurality and tolerance,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “It’s very important that the Egyptian authorities reaffirm freedom of worship in Egypt,” added British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf warned in a televised address that the riots were another setback on the country’s already fraught transition to civilian rule after three decades of Mubarak’s authoritarian government.

“These events have taken us back several steps,” Sharaf said. He blamed foreign meddling for the troubles, claiming it was part of a “dirty conspiracy.” Similar explanations for the troubles in Egypt are often heard from the military rulers who took power from Mubarak, perhaps at attempt to deflect accusations that they are bungling the management of the country.

“Instead of moving forward to build a modern state on democratic principles, we are back to seeking stability and searching for hidden hands — domestic and foreign — that meddle with the country’s security and safety,” Sharaf said.

Sunday’s violence will likely prompt the military to further tighten its grip on power.

The ruling military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, defense minister of 20 years under Mubarak’s former regime, took over after the 18-day popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down. The military initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months, but that deadline has passed, with parliamentary elections now scheduled to start in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, presidential elections could be held late next year.

Already, the military council said it had no intention to lift the widely hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak first took office in 1981.

Tension has been growing between the military and the youth groups that engineered the uprising, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and ordinary Egyptians.

“The army incites sedition to remain in power,” said Mariam Ayoub, a relative of a slain Christian protester, Michael Mosaad, as she stood outside the Coptic hospital. “They tell all of us that this is what happens without emergency laws.”

State television said authorities stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, deploying additional troops outside parliament and the Cabinet. Riot police were also stationed outside the Coptic hospital. Funeral services were planned in the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.

The clashes on Sunday night did not appear to be exclusively sectarian.

State TV, which has been growing increasingly loyal to the military, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks as news spread of clashes between the Christian protesters and the troops outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

Throughout the night, the station cast the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacking the army and public property. At one point, Information Minister Osama Heikal went on the air to deny that the station’s coverage had a sectarian slant, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”

The military council ordered the Cabinet to investigate the violence and pledged measures to safeguard Egypt’s security

Egyptian Army, Police Kill 35 Coptic Christian Protestors

Egyptian Army, Police Kill 35 Coptic Christian Protestors
(AINA) -- For the second time in five days military and police forces forcibly dispersed Coptic protesters. 35 Copts were killed today and over 300 injured. The numbers could rise dramatically as many bodies are still unidentified and disfigured beyond recognition.

The dead and injured have been transported to the Coptic Hospital in Cairo. Bodies of 4 Copts were found in buildings and taken to the public morgue, reported al-Ahram Daily.

There were discrepancies between reports from the official State-owned TV and independent TV stations. Al-Hayat confirmed that army armored vehicles went into Maspero "in a strange way" and ran over the protesters. A video clip of the armored vehicles running amok through the 150,000 protesters was shown on Al-Arabia TV. Egyptian State-run TV said that Coptic protesters killed 3 soldiers and injured 20. They gave no numbers for the fallen or injured Copts. They also said that the Copts had weapons. This was refuted by Coptic priests and activists. Nader Shoukry, Coptic activist and journalist, said "We only had wooden crosses."
"Today occurred a massacre of the Copts," said Coptic priest, Father Filopateer Gamil in a telephone conversation with CTV Coptic Channel. "I was an eyewitness to all what happened."

According to witnesses, the army forces were waiting for the Copic rally to arrive at Maspero, near the state television building. "They arranged a trap for us," said Father Filopateer. "As soon as we arrived they surrounded us and started shooting live ammunition randomly at us. Then the armored vehicles arrived and ran over protesters."

Father Filopateer said he saw army police and affiliated thugs torching police cars, to later blame it on the Copts. He believes that the assault on the Copt was preplanned.

Copts announced a few days ago that they would stage a rally to protest the torching of the church in the village of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan (AINA 10-1-2011), as well as the brutal attack on the Coptic rally in Maspiro on October 4 (AINA 10-9-2011). Rallies were to be staged in Cairo, Aswan, Minya, Beni-Suef, Assiut, Suez and Alexandria.

"When we announced this peaceful rally we made it understood that it will be from 5-8pm and no sit-in and no blocking of traffic," said Ihab Aziz, Coptic-American activist, who was one of the organizers.

Aziz said that the procession started today at the Christian populated district of Shubra and went to Maspero, in front of the TV building, on the river Nile. On their way, some Muslims fired live ammunition over their heads to terrorize them and some bricks were hurled at them. By the time they arrived to Maspero there were nearly 150,000 protesters. "The army and police were waiting for us about 200 meters away from the Maspero TV building," said Aziz. "They started firing at us before two army armored vehicles came at great speed and drove into the crowds, going backwards and forwards, mowing people under their wheels." He said he saw at least 20 dead Copts around him.

"The most horrible scene was when one of the vehicles ran over a Copt's head, causing his brain to explode and blood was all over the place," recalled Aziz. he held out his hand, showing two bullets in his palm. "We got a clear message today that we are no first class citizens."

The same description of events was confirmed by Nader Shoukry. He said that when the Copts were trapped by the army forces, some threw themselves in the Nile and some just fainted seeing other people being run-over in front of their eyes. Copts ran to hide in the neighboring buildings, but the police dragged them out and assaulted them.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, who was at the procession, was shot in the leg.

Michael Munier, head of El Hayat (Life) Party, said that what happened to the Copts today was a massacre. He asked why do the authorities kill the Copts who were protesting peacefully for their rights, while at the same time when Salafists blocked the trains in Qena for 10 days protesting against a Copt being nominated for governor of Qena, no one touched them?

"People are being prosecuted, including former President Mubarak, in courts presently because they killed demonstrators on January 28. Now the military police is doing the same to the Copts," said Shoukry.

A curfew has been announced tonight in several Cairo streets.

Mary Abdelmassih

Sunday, October 9, 2011

19 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster

19 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster ..CAIRO (AP) — Massive clashes raged Sunday in downtown Cairo, drawing Christians angry over a recent church attack, hard-line Muslims and Egyptian security forces. At least 19 people were killed and more than 150 injured in the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence lasted late into the night, bringing out a deployment of more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the state television building along the Nile, where the trouble began.

The clashes spread to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

At one point, an armored security van sped into the crowd, striking a half-dozen protesters and throwing some into the air.

Christians blame Egypt's ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since the ouster of Mubarak. The Coptic Christian minority makes up about 10 percent of the country of more than 80 million people.

As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of this year's uprising, Christians are particularly worried about the increasing show of force by the ultraconservative Islamists.

The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the television building. But then, they said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and fired pellets.

"The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual," said Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross drawn on it. "Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I saw them."

Wael Roufail, another protester, corroborated the account.

"I saw the vehicle running over the protesters. Then they opened fired at us," he said.

Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting the protesters.

Television footage showed a military vehicle plowing into the crowd and also showed Coptic protesters attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him. One soldier collapsed in tears as ambulances rushed to the scene to take away the injured.

A government-funded newspaper, Al-Akhbar, reported that some of the protesters snatched weapons from the soldiers and turned them on the military. Others pelted soldiers with rock and bottles.

At one point, a group of youths with at least one riot policeman among them were seen dragging a protester by his legs for a long distance.

The protest began in the Shubra district of northern Cairo, then headed to the state television building along the Nile where men in plainclothes attacked about a thousand Christian protesters as they chanted denunciations of the military rulers.

"The people want to topple the field marshal!" the protesters yelled, referring to the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Some Muslim protesters later joined in the chant.

Later in the evening, a crowd of ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis turned up to challenge the Christian crowds, shouting, "Speak up! An Islamic state until death!"

Armed with sticks, the Muslim assailants chased the Christian protesters from the TV building, banging metal street signs to scare them off. It was not immediately clear who the attackers were.

Gunshots rang out at the scene, where lines of riot police with shields tried to hold back hundreds of Christian protesters chanting, "This is our country!"

Security forces eventually fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. The clashes then moved to nearby Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising against Mubarak. The army closed off streets around the area.

The clashes left streets littered with shattered glass, stones, ash and soot from burned vehicles. Hundreds of curious onlookers gathered at one of the bridges over the Nile to watch the unrest.

After hours of intense clashes, chants of "Muslims, Christians one hand, one hand!" rang out in a call for a truce. The stone-throwing died down briefly, but then began to rage again.

In the past weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by local Salafi Muslims that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

Aswan's governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

Protesters said the Copts are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

Last week, the military used force to disperse a similar protest in front of the state television building. Christians were angered by the treatment of the protesters and vowed to renew their demonstrations until their demands are met.