“Chaos and Bloodshed”: Twenty-Five Die in Cairo as Egyptian Military Attacks Coptic Christian Protesters

Amy Goodman: In Egypt, at least two dozen people died Sunday in clashes between Coptic Christians and state security forces. The violence broke out after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a church in Aswan province last week. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous was in Cairo during the clashes.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Last night saw some of the worst violence and bloodshed in Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak eight months ago. A march of largely Coptic Christian protesters started off in the port district of Shubra marching towards the state TV building headquarters in downtown Cairo. That march initially—filled with men, women and children—came under attack from some rock throwers. That was a brief incident. But the march continued towards the state TV building. They were protesting a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt and the recent attack on a demonstration last week by the army.

At the state TV building, there was a massive security presence that had gathered there. Many armored personnel carriers were there, many hundreds of military police with batons, with shields, with helmets, lining the streets around what’s called Maspiro, the state TV building. There was already a group of several hundred or a few thousand demonstrators in front of Maspiro awaiting the march. People were lighting candles and chanting peacefully. It was a largely peaceful scene.

But this scene turned into bloodshed and chaos in a matter of seconds. Some protesters pushed back some military police, pushed them back towards where the APCs were. And then the military attacked. They came rushing forward, beating anyone in their path. Then they started opening fire. The sound of gunfire filled the air, and it was not stopping. Some people fell over as the stampede was coming back behind the Hilton Ramses, a hotel nearby. On the other side, on the main street, I was not there, but eyewitnesses have said that several armored personnel carriers began to drive into the crowd, running over people, six or seven at a time. The sound of women wailing began to fill the air. I saw people being carried out in blankets covered in blood. There were fires lit. Several cars were lit on fire. The police began charging, firing tear gas.

All this was happening while on the state TV channel, the Egyptian state TV channel was basically inciting violence, telling honest Egyptians to fill the streets and protect the army from the Coptic demonstrators, who they said were attacking the army. Military police also stormed the stations of a channel called 25 and another channel, al-Horreya, and shut it down to shut down any independent reporting.

There was also groups of thugs that then filled the streets, some people chanting “Islameya, Islameya,” which means “Islamic, Islamic,” and began attacking the demonstrations. It was really a scene of chaos, a scene of bloodshed, the likes of which I have not seen since the revolution here in Cairo. And the reaction of the army does not bode well for the future. So, it remains to be seen what will happen. But October 9th, I think, is a day that will go down in infamy in Egypt.

Amy Goodman: Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reporting from Cairo.