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Egypt and Tunisia: risk of civil war

May 10, 2011

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The deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo, in Egypt and unrest in Tunis region, spark fears of renewed sectarian violence in Egypt, and insecurity in Tunisia. In Egypt, a religious leader warns against a “civil war”, while police is accused of inaction.

  •    The Egyptian government has promised to use all available legislative arsenals to prevent further clashes after those in the neighbourhood of Imbaba Saturday night having made 12 dead and 232 wounded.
  •    On Monday, the press was concerned about an expansion of violence: “The fire of religious fanaticism threatens Egypt,” headlined the daily Al-Ahram, while the independent Al-Masri al-Yom emphasized: “extremism burns the revolution.”
  •    Newspapers and the power blamed the “cons-revolutionaries” and “extremists” for the violence orchestrated by these followers of former President Hosni Mubarak ousted Feb. 11 by a popular revolt. The army has provided since the country’s leadership.
  •    Quoted by Al-Masri al-Yom, Mufti Ali Gomaa, one of the highest Muslim authorities in Egypt, has warned against “a possible civil war because of attempts of outlaws to challenge the State authority.”
  •    On the social network Twitter, the Nobel Peace Mohamed ElBaradei called for urgent action to deal with “religious extremism and the Middle Ages practices.”
  •    In this context, security forces were the target of criticism. Al-Ahram denounced their “absence” against “the threat of religious trends that threaten security.”
  •    The Youth Coalition of the revolution, combining movements which have launched anti-Mubarak revolt, said that “the unfortunate events of Imbaba are the greatest proof of the security disaster,” and criticized the military for failing to act.
  •    The United States has “strongly condemned” the violence Monday, calling for restraint and urging the authorities to investigate.
  •    The chief diplomat of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, has said on her side to feel “very concerned”, saying that freedom of religion is “a universal right that must be protected everywhere.”
  •    While a thousand Copts carried a sit-in to protest against the “laxity” of the authorities, clashes took place in the afternoon between demonstrators and soldiers in Cairo. Soldiers used Taser, according to witnesses.
  •    Nearly 200 people arrested after the violence in Imbaba must be brought before military courts.
  •    The major clashes occurred around a church, attacked by Muslims believed that a Christian wanting to convert to Islam was shut up. The security services said Monday that the Muslim woman’s husband, who had spread the information, had been arrested.
  •    Sunday, Minister of Justice had said that laws that criminalize attacks against places of worship, providing up to “the death penalty” would be implemented immediately.
  •    For months, Egypt is experiencing a rise in sectarian tensions fueled by controversy over Copts women who would be maintained cloistered by the church after wishing to convert to Islam.
  •    Several demonstrations on the call of Salafi (radical Islamists) were held to demand the “liberation” of Camilia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, wives of priests they say kidnapped by the Church who denied their conversion to Islam.
  •    The Salafists have denied any involvement in the violence of the weekend.
  •    Copts, who account for 6-10% of Egyptians, feel discriminated against in a society overwhelmingly Muslim. They have been targeted by several attacks, especially the New Year against a church in Alexandria (21 dead).
  • Unrest in the region of Tunis: 12 youths arrested
  • Tunisian police arrested twelve young people involved in acts of violence and looting in the suburbs of Tunis, said security sources quoted by the agency TAP.
  •    These offenders, according to these sources, were arrested Sunday night in possession of bladed weapons during the unrest which shook Khaled Ibn Walid neighbourhood in Douar Hicher, a suburb of Tunis.
  •    The premises of the National Guard, a branch of a bank and a shop were burnt in the district, sources said.
  •    On the other hand, motorists have suffered on Sunday evening, robberies, acts of looting and attacks on the southern outskirts of the highway leading from Tunis to Hammamet in particular, witnesses said quoted by the agency APR.
  •    These witnesses said they were surprised by blockades on the road and made of stones, branches of trees and barrels.
  •    According to them, individuals armed with swords and knives have emerged and attacked, smashing their cars, stealing their money and mobile phones.
  •    Several motorists were able to flee and seek help. One of them said it was a group of twenty people, and that cars were burned.
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