Thursday, 13 October 2011

SCAF defends its tactics in Copt protest crackdown

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has denied that the army opened fire on protesters during Sunday's clashes between Copts and troops in Cairo. SCAF also denied that the army drove military vehicles into crowds, and showed footage of an armoured personnel carrier swerving around protesters.

It is estimated that around 25 people died during the clashes, the most violent since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in February. The confrontations ensued when Copts took to the streets in protest over an attack on a church in southern Egypt. It is not yet clear how many people of those killed were Copts but according to Egyptian officials three soldiers were among the dead. Many others were injured.

A member of SCAF Gen Mahmoud Hegazy said: "The armed forces would never and have never opened fire on the people.” Speaking about the video footage of an army vehicle from the scene of the clashes, he stressed that "there has not been a case of rolling over people with vehicles". Hegazy added: “They are trying to avoid running into protesters, not rolling over them." He also pointed out that the video proved that soldiers were being attacked by protesters armed with guns and rocks.

The handling of Sunday's unrest has resulted in a lot criticism directed at the army. The Copts, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's 85 million population, have a number of grievances against the interim administration, namely that it is not doing enough to protect them.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, WSJ

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

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