Egypt: new charter approved amid violence

Egyptians voter appear to have approved a new constitution, potentially setting the stage for army chief Ge. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president. Authorities put the preliminary results at 90% in favor of the new charter. But the two-day vote was marred by violence. As polls opened, a bomb exploded near a Cairo courthouse, although no casualties were claimed. Over the next tow days, scattered clashes left 10 dead, despite streets flooded with soliders. The Muslim Brotherhood, now officially banned and declared a terrorist group, called for a boycott of the vote, and is promising a new protest mobilization in the following 10 days, leading up to the third anniversary of the start of the revolution that brought down strongman Hosni Mubarak. Security forces have sealed off Tahrir Square to keep protesters from gathering. (Reuters, Daily News Egypt, Jan. 15; CNN, BBC News, Jan. 14)

Egypt: Ikhwan unleash rage on Copts

As the death toll from the previous day's operation to clear Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) protest camps in Cairo was estimated as high as 600, Ikhwan supporters on Aug. 15 staged new marches in the capital, where a government building was set alight, as well as in Alexandria, where street clashes were reported. A governorate building was also torched in Giza, while seven soldiers were killed by unknown gunmen near El Arish in the Sinai peninsula. Ikhwan supporters also unleashed their rage on Coptic Christians, with several churches, homes, and Copt-owned businesses attacked throughout the country. Coptic rights group the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) estimated that as many as 36 churches were "completely" devastated by fire across nine governorates, including Minya, Sohag and Assiut. Egyptians on Twitter used #EgyChurch to crowd-source images and reports of attacks on churches. (Ahram Online, Ahram OnlineMiddle East Online, BBC News, Aug. 15; Al Jazeera, Aug. 12)

Egypt: labor repression amid Ikhwan crackdown

A mixed force of Egyptian Interior Ministry and military troops with armored bulldozers moved into the two protest camps maintained by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi shortly after dawn Aug. 14. The smaller camp in Nahda Square was cleared relatively quickly, but clashes raged for most of the day around the main camp near Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque—leaving at least 200 dead and 10 times as many wounded. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) put the death toll as high as 300, while authorities said some of the protesters were armed and that 43 members of the security forces were among the dead. Ikhwan leaders have been rounded up, and a 30-day state of emergency has been declared. Street clashes have spread to Alexandria and other cities, and vice president Mohamed ElBaradei has resigned in protest of the repression.

Egypt: escalating violence in Sinai Peninsula

Some 40 supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi were injured as soldiers opened fire on protesters outside a government office in El Arish, a town in the northern Sinai Peninsula July 6. (Euronews, July 6) That same day, a Coptic Christian priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was shot dead while walking on a street in El Arish—apparently the first sectarian killing since the power transfer. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had criticized Pope Tawadros, spiritual leader of Egypt's 8 million Copts, for giving his blessing to the removal of the president and attending the announcement by army chief Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, suspending the constitution. (The Guardian, July 6)

Egypt: death sentences for anti-Muslim 'film'

An Egyptian court on Jan. 29 upheld the in absentia death sentences of seven Coptic Christians and an American preacher on charges stemming from the amateur anti-Muslim "film" Innocence of Muslims, which sparked violent protests in the Middle East last year. A criminal court in Cairo sentenced the convicted defendants in November, pending the final verdict just announced. The death sentences are primarily symbolic, as all of the defendants live outside of Egypt. The eight defendants include Mark Basseley Youssef, the California man who produced the film, as well as Florida pastor Terry Jones, who aroused controversy last year by publicly burning a Koran. The film depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer. The court found the defendants guilty of subverting national unity, spreading false information and insulting Islam, charges that carry the death penalty.

Attack on Coptic church in Libya

Two Egyptians were killed and two injured in an apparent attack on a Coptic church near the Libyan city of Misrata Dec. 30. "Unknown assailants targeted a church building in the town of Dafniya, in Misrata [province], causing the death of two Egyptian citizens and wounding two others," official news agency LANA reported. "The explosion happened after the mass ended and people were on their way out." There were an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians living and working in Libya before the 2011 revolution. About two-thirds left during the war but many returned in 2012.

Egypt: cries for revolution against 'pharaoh' Morsi

Clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi were reported throughout Egypt Nov. 23, as protesters filled the streets to decry Morsi's decree exempting his decisions from legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. Street-fighting erupted in the governorates of Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Daqahilya, Menya and Aswan. Protesters attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, including Alexandria. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands chanted "Morsi is Mubarak, revolution everywhere!" When police tried to clear the square with tear-gas, protesters fought back with hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. At least 18 were injured across the country.

Jihad against the phantom menace hits Sinai

The jihad against a non-existent "film" produced by non-existent "Jews" continues to claim lives, with the most recent attack Sept. 23 launched by militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Israeli troops guarding the border, killing one and wounding another. AFP informs us that an outfit calling itself Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) took credit for the attack, calling it a "Disciplinary Invasion Against those who Dared Against the Beloved Prophet." The statement posted on Islamist websites read: "As the defence of the honour of the Messenger of Allah is one of our duties and responsibilities, your brothers...carried their weapons and became determined to discipline the Jews for their heinous acts." Hey, read the small print, willya Ansar Bait al-Maqdis? "The Jews" had nothing to do with this one—the non-existent "film" (really just a "trailer" on YouTube) was produced by a Coptic Christian who cynically assumed the fabricated identity of an Israeli-American, and falsely claimed to have Jewish financial backers. Talk about "Anti-Semitism without Jews."

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