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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Egyptian Copts forced to form militias for self-defense

Egyptian security isn't protecting its Coptic Christian minority, so they have to do it themselves.

Members of the Coptic community in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba in northwest Cairo are forming militias for self-defense after recent sectarian clashes left 12 dead and hundreds injured.

Copts in Imbaba, who expect more clashes in coming months, say they have organized small groups to protect churches as well as homes and businesses owned by Copts.

The clashes broke out Saturday night after a group of Muslims attempted to storm a church under the pretext of rescuing a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. A second church was set on fire.

A small group of Copts who gathered near the US Embassy in Cairo on Sunday called for international protection of Egypt's Christian community and criticized the government for not doing more to protect them.

Sunday night, thousands of protesters staged a sit-in front of the state TV building calling for immediate investigation into the clashes and church burning.

Tens of Copts gathered inside the church at the center of the clashes while the army blocked nearby streets.

Christian protesters are accusing the army of collaborating with crowds of ultraconservative Islamists during the earlier attack on a church overnight. A residential building home to Christians was also burned in the overnight violence.