'Strangers' infiltrated the demonstration in Cairo – Copts

Egypt's Coptic Church suggests “strangers” are responsible for the clashes in Cairo which claimed dozens of lives. The spiritual leader of the Coptic Christian minority has declared three days of mourning to honor the victims.

“Strangers infiltrated the demonstration and committed the crimes for which Copts are being blamed," the Coptic Church said in a statement on Monday after its spiritual leader, Pope Shenouda III, met with 70 bishops.

It was stressed in the statement that “Copts have suffered repeated problems” and that “the aggressors have gone unpunished.”

“The protests themselves emerged out of quite a long history of discrimination against the Christian minority inside Egypt,” Simon Assaf, an investigative journalist from the Socialist Worker newspaper, explained to RT.

“This has been around for quite a few years and in the 1970s it was very prominent and I think re-emerged in a major way in the last couple of months,” he said.  

Simon Assaf believes that in the middle of this “a kind of counter-revolutionary force” is emerging, which is “beginning to formulate itself.”

It is still unclear who sparked the fatal scenes, but state-owned media has placed blame on the Christian protesters.

“In the middle of these clashes the state TV announces that Christians are shooting dead soldiers and they call on the population to come and defend the army. Now this was a lie,” Assaf said. “There is, to a certain extent, a fabrication of the news; to a certain extent there is a whipping up of a frustrated population against a very identifiable minority, in this case the Coptic Christians.”

“You seem to see a mobilization of anti-revolutionary forces beginning, like I think we have seen today, what they call continuing clashes, but to me appear direct sectarian attacks on the Christian population,” he added.

Military vehicles were clearly seen driving through crowds and ploughing into people, while army infantry fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

On Monday the military council ordered the cabinet to investigate the violence and pledged measures to safeguard Egypt's security.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon has called on Egypt's military authorities to defend "all faiths" in the country.

"The secretary-general is deeply saddened by the loss of life in Cairo last night. He appeals to all Egyptians to remain united and to preserve the spirit of the historic changes of early 2011," said a UN spokesperson

The violence, which erupted on Sunday, is said to be the worst in Egypt since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. Pope Shenouda III has called for Christians to start three days of mourning and pray and fast "to restore peace to Egypt."