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Thousands gather in Cairo for unity rally against religious strife

Arab World Materials 13 May 2011 15:38
Thousands of Egyptians gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to take part in a Unity Rally, following clashes between Muslims and Christian that left 13 people dead earlier this week.
Thousands gather in Cairo for unity rally against religious strife

Thousands of Egyptians gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to take part in a Unity Rally, following clashes between Muslims and Christian that left 13 people dead earlier this week, DPA reported.

Major political groups have called on Egyptians to participate in a million-strong rally in a show of unity and solidarity, and have demanded the prosecution of those instigating religious violence.

"They will never succeed, together the crescent and the cross stand united," one activist told those gathered in the square, which was the focal point of demonstrations that forced former president Hosny Mubarak to resign in February.

People carried flags and banners that read: "The people want a state of law."

"I will be very happy if I am protected by Egyptian law, not foreign intervention," a priest told the crowd, rejecting recent calls by some Christians for the United States to protect the country's minority.

"Did the US protect churches in Iraq?" asked the priest.

The violence between ultraconservative Muslim Salafists, Coptic Christians and others first erupted when Islamists marched to a church in Imbaba, where they believed that a young woman was being held hostage, possibly in an effort to get her to revoke a conversion to Islam.

The woman at the centre of the storm, Abeer Fakhry, later handed herself in to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been in control of the country since Mubarak stepped down.

The military council blamed remnants of Mubarak's regime for inciting the unrest in a bid to cause chaos in the country.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces warned of the dangers facing Egypt through sectarian discord, affirming that this is a red line," the military said on Thursday.

In Tahrir square, activists were also holding hundreds of Palestinian flags in solidarity with Palestinians who prepared to mark the nakba (catastrophe) - the May 15 anniversary of Israel's founding.

More protests are expected in both Cairo and Rafah in support of Palestinians over the coming two days, despite warnings by the army against rallies at the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

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