Hundreds march in Egypt to mourn slain Christians

By Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 11 2011 3:21 p.m. MST

CAIRO — Hundreds of Egyptians marched Friday through Cairo to commemorate 27 people killed last month in clashes with the military that triggered new criticism of Egypt's ruling generals and their handling of the aftermath of this year's uprising.

The violence on Oct. 9 was the worst since the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February. Most of those killed were Coptic Christians who had been protesting an attack on a church in southern Egypt.

In Friday's march, crowds of Muslims and Christians called for unity as they marched from one of Cairo's main churches through one of the city's busiest streets, backing up traffic for several miles. Police guided the procession until it reached Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt's uprising and the scene of continued protests directed at the military council that took over from Mubarak.

Several marchers wore T-shirts marked with the ancient Egyptian symbol known as the Ankh, or key of life, and wore ancient Egyptian-style dress. Coptic Christianity in Egypt dates back to the first century and the language used in its liturgy can be traced to the speech of Egypt's pharaohs.

The marchers also held photos of the dead, Christian crosses draped in the colors of the Egyptian flag and posters denouncing the military.

A Coptic preacher spoke to the crowd of hundreds through loudspeakers strapped on the back of a truck, telling them to support the military but to continue to demand justice.

Not all were in agreement, as several marchers held posters denouncing the military and Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defense minister.

"Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his gang are playing with Egypt's future and leading Egypt to total destruction," one sign said.

Witnesses to the October bloodshed said that the military attacked protesters. According to forensics reports for the slain protesters, a third of victims were killed by being run over by armored vehicles, while two-thirds were shot with live ammunition. At least 21 of the 27 killed were Christians.

Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country's 85 million people, have long complained of discrimination by Egypt's leaders.

State media said three soldiers were killed in the clashes. The military denied troops opened fire at protesters and said it is not in "the dictionary of the armed forces to run over bodies."

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