CAIRO (Reuters) - Coptic Christians protested in Cairo on Wednesday at last week’s killing of six Copts in southern Egypt, accusing state officials of responding inadequately and demanding that the culprits face justice.
The protesters, who chanted anti-government slogans and addressed President Hosni Mubarak by name, said there was unequal treatment of minorities in the Muslim country.
“Mubarak why are you silent? Are you with them?” around 2,000 Coptic Christians chanted in Arabic from inside the complex of the Cathedral of Abbasiya, Egypt’s biggest church.
Six Coptic Christians and a Muslim policeman were killed in Nagaa Hamady, near Luxor, in a drive-by shooting after mass on January 6, which is Christmas Eve in their calendar. The government has said it was an isolated incident and was not the product of sectarian tension.
The demonstrators disagreed, waving signs reading: “Stop sectarian violence. Egypt burns while its leaders sleep.”
Church security locked the gates to prevent demonstrators from flooding onto the streets, and around 500 state security men formed a cordon around the church to prevent any clashes.
“Where is the government? Where is security, and where is the governor in all of this? Where are our rights?” one protester told Reuters Television. “We don’t want them to give condolences, we want action.”
Three suspects turned themselves in two days after the shootings and security forces arrested a further 16 Muslims and 13 Christians following riots in Nagaa Hamady after the killings in which several homes and shops were set alight.
Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population of around 78 million.
Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Trevelyan