Egypt Copts mark solemn Good Friday

The pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, walks to his office at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt state media said Sunday(AP)
Updated 14 April 2017

Egypt Copts mark solemn Good Friday

CAIRO: Egyptian Copts observed a solemn Good Friday with prayers and fasting, as the community reeled from two church bombings that killed dozens on Palm Sunday.
The government had declared a state of emergency and called in the army to protect “vital” installations following last week’s suicide bombings claimed by the Daesh group.
But in a reminder of sectarianism Copts often complain about, police officials said Muslims fought with Christians who tried praying in an abandoned home in a southern village on Thursday then set fire to four nearby homes.
Police reinforcements were sent to the town in the province of Minya, they said.
On Friday, Copts attended churches across the country to commemorate the day they believe Jesus Christ was crucified.
The services mark the Stations of the Cross, representing the Biblical account of the cross-bearing Christ as he was led to his crucifixion and burial.
The rites were especially mournful for the Christian minority following last Sunday’s suicide bombings at churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria which killed 45 people, Coptic Bishop Kirillos told AFP.
“With these incidents we are now living with Christ in his pain,” he said.
On Saturday, the Orthodox will mark Easter, with Coptic Pope Tawadros II leading services in Cairo’s Saint Mark’s Cathedral.
The church had announced it would scale back Easter celebrations to a simple mass in the wake of the bombings.
“Given the current circumstances and our solidarity with the families of the dead, we are going to limit our celebrations to Easter mass,” it said in a statement.
“There will be no decorations in churches and the rooms normally reserved for the reception of worshippers wishing to exchange season’s greetings will remain closed,” an official at the Coptic patriarchate told AFP.
The violence came ahead of Catholic Pope Francis’s first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks.
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt’s population of more than 92 million, have been targeted several times in recent months.
In December, an Daesh group suicide bomber struck a Cairo church, killing 29 people.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 53 min 50 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.