Egypt Copts hold Christmas mass under tight security

Egyptians gather during the funeral of the victims of the attack on the Saint Mina Coptic church, on December 29, 2017, at a church south of the capital Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2018

Egypt Copts hold Christmas mass under tight security

CAIRO: Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians held a Christmas Eve mass on Saturday at a massive new cathedral east of Cairo amid tight security after a year of deadly militant attacks on the community.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi gave a short speech before the liturgy, which was led by Pope Tawadros II, wishing the Christians a merry Christmas and telling them that the country would prevail over the militants.
“You are our family, you are from us, we are one and no one will divide us,” he said to ululations and chants from some of the congregants and visitors.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed across Egypt to protect minority Christians and their churches. Police had set up barricades outside the cathedral in a new administrative capital Egypt is building east of Cairo.
The cathedral, Sissi said, was a “message to the world, a message of peace and a message of love.”
Police had tightened security around the country’s churches ahead of services following a spate of attacks that began in 2016.
More than 100 Christians have been killed in the violence, including a shooting at a church south of Cairo just last week claimed by the Deash group.
Since the military ousted president Muhammad Mursi in 2013, security forces have sought to quell attacks led by the Egypt branch of Daesh, which has increasingly targeted Christians.
While the militants have also taken aim at other civilians, including more than 300 Muslim worshippers massacred at a mosque last November, they have focused on the ancient Coptic community.
In December 2016, a Daesh suicide bomber killed almost 30 worshippers at a church in Cairo located in the Saint Mark’s Cathedral complex, the seat of the Coptic papacy.
In the Sinai Peninsula, where Daesh is based, hundreds of Christians were forced to flee in January and December after a wave of assassinations.
Daesh suicide bombers killed more than 40 people in twin church bombings in April and shot dead almost 30 Christians a month later as they headed to a monastery.
The year ended with an Daesh militants killing nine people in an attack on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 93 million people, have long complained of discrimination and intermittent sectarian attacks.
The overwhelming majority of Egypt’s Christians are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7.
The Christmas Mass was held at an unfinished cathedral in Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, a multi-billion dollar, under-construction project east of Cairo.
 


Iraqi security forces raid Baghdad’s main protest camp, shoot at demonstrators

Updated 25 January 2020

Iraqi security forces raid Baghdad’s main protest camp, shoot at demonstrators

  • The clashes took place after authorities began removing concrete barriers near Tahrir Square and across at least one main bridge over the Tigris River in Baghdad
  • Security forces began the raids just hours after populist cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr said he wound halt the involvement of his supporters in the anti-government unrest

BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces raided Baghdad’s main protest site at Tahrir Square on Saturday, firing live rounds and tear gas at anti-government demonstrators who have camped out there for months, Reuters reporters said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but at least seven people were wounded in clashes with police earlier in the day, medics and security sources said.
The clashes took place after authorities began removing concrete barriers near Tahrir Square and across at least one main bridge over the Tigris River in Baghdad.
In the southern city of Basra, security forces raided the main anti-government sit-in overnight and deployed in force to stop protesters gathering there again, security sources said. Police arrested at least 16 protesters in Basra, they said.
The actions appeared to be an attempt to fully clear out anti-government sit-ins and end months of popular demonstrations that have called for the removal of Iraq’s entire ruling elite.
Security forces began the raids just hours after populist cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr said he wound halt the involvement of his supporters in the anti-government unrest.
Sadr had supported the demands of protesters for the removal of corrupt politicians and provision of services and jobs soon after the demonstrations began in October but stopped short of calling all his followers to join in.
Many of Sadr’s millions of supporters who hail from Baghdad’s slums have been involved in demonstrations, however.
Sadr’s followers held a march on Friday calling for a removal of US troops from the country in a rally separate from the anti-government protests. The march, which some observers expected to descend into violence, dissipated after several hours.
Sadr wrote on Twitter late on Friday that he would “try not to interfere in the issue (of protesters), either negatively or positively, so that they can shepherd the fate of Iraq.” He did not elaborate.
In Basra, protesters urged Sadr to reconsider what they said was a withdrawal of support for popular demonstrations. In a letter circulated on social media, they called for the support of Sadrists, without whom they feared attacks by security forces.