Government Promises Safe Exit | Sectarian Attacks in Sohag, Beni Ahmed

The interim government again promised Morsi supporters safe exit from their sit-ins, urging them to re-join the formal political process. Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei stated that force could only be a last resort in attempting to disperse the pro-Morsi sit-ins. Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and E.U. envoy Bernandino Leon to discuss political developments in Egypt. According to a government spokesperson, Fahmy reaffirmed Egypt’s willingness to receive foreign delegations as well as Egypt’s independence regarding internal affairs.

In Sohag, hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters surrounded a church and raised an al-Qaeda flag, while others attacked houses. A secretary of the Building and Development Party stated that they are “fighting a war of identity against Christians (Naasiry) and secularists.”

In Beni Ahmed, located in Upper Egypt, sectarian clashes between the mostly Coptic residents and Muslim youth began around 8pm and resulted in 15 injured. Seven houses were burned and other property, including five cars, two shops, a café, and a pharmacy were damaged. Muslims then attempted to storm the local church but were prevented by locals. Later local police and other first responders arrived. The violence may have begun with an argument at a café. While a Coptic woman discussed the burning of her house, Islamists called her an infidel (Kafra), stating they will make Christians suffer.

Late Saturday night, Defense Minister al-Sisi met with Islamist leaders in an attempt to resolve the political crisis on the streets of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood was not present. Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali stated that Sisi communicated the possibility of a peaceful solution being found. Human Rights Watch again called for a peaceful resolution to the protests, urging that the government not try to disperse the camps by force.