Update: Churches attacked in Upper Egypt, clashes in governorates

In reaction to the forced dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins, hundreds of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi attempted to storm the governorate building in Aswan, state news agency MENA reported.

Protesters surrounded the building and attacked it with rocks, after which they blocked a neighboring road. MENA reported that employees evacuated the building.

The latest nationwide figures from the Ministry of Health put the death toll at 149 and over 1400 injured.

There were also several reports of attacks on churches in Upper Egypt and Suez, as well as attacks on government institutions and private property in a number of governorates.

In Sohag, Bishop of Mar Girgis Church Moussa Ibrahim told Mada Masr that the church was set ablaze by Muslim Brotherhood supporters at 9:30 am in the absence of police forces, despite repeated threats against the church.

The biggest church in the governorate, Mar Girgis is located in Thakafa Square near the Brotherhood sit-in. Three other small churches were also attacked in Sohag but Ibrahim could not confirm the extent of the damage.

Coptic resident living near the church told Mada Masr that shops owned by Copts and Muslims in front of the church were destroyed. Live shots were heard in the area as citizens began forming popular committees.

A source who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity said that at least two churches —Saint Dimiana, the main church in the city, and Virgin Mary located in Degla village— were attacked and burned down. Clashes between police and members of Jama’a al-Islamiya are ongoing on the Corniche.

Source said that a sit-in by Morsi supporters is taking place in the city’s main Palace Square, where incitement against Coptic residents is incessant and property is being destroyed, including two cruise ships.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered at Al-Qaed Ibrahim mosque in Alexandria, responding to calls from the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, while others moved to block the Corniche. The local council building has been attacked, according to media reports.

Protesters also blocked roads in Suez, as calls echoed from Hamza Mosque to congregate at Arbaen Square, Al-Ahram reported.

MENA reported that protesters used the mosque’s speakers to “incite violence against the police and army forces.”

Kamal el-Banna, member of the Egyptian Socialist Party in Suez, told Mada Masr that Brotherhood supporters burned down two Coptic schools and the Greek Church. He claims they are targeting any Coptic symbols in the area.

Clashes are ongoing by the governorate building between Brotherhood supporters on one side and the police and military on the other, with reports of only tear gas being used so far.

Banna says that the clashes started when an armed march started roaming the main road in Suez, the military road, and attacked security forces. He says armed protesters took over a CSF truck and removed weapons from another one. 

In Assiut, army and police forces cordoned off the governorate building and the security directorate as clashes broke out with Morsi supporters.

Protesters and security forces fired birdshots, as protesters attacked residents of the area, an eyewitness who preferred to remain anonymous told Mada Masr. The eyewitness said he saw seven injured among residents, who were stabbed with knives or beaten with clubs.

The situation remains extremely tense in the downtown area of Assiut, as protesters attacked several shops, the eyewitness added.

Ahmed Abdel Monsef, an officer from Assiut security directorate, told Mada Masr there is organized violence from Brotherhood supporters.

“There were attempts to storm the governorate headquarters and the local council premises. They are moving according to an organized plan of violence and they have been stockpiling weapons for this day,” he said.  

Monsef said popular committees are updating police about violent marches.

“Twelve police stations nationwide have been set on fire as well as eight churches. I see the January 28, 2011 scenario is back, so don’t blame the police if the Interior Ministry deals with force against the aggressors,” he said.

The Freedom and Justice Party’s online portal also reported unrest in North Sinai and Ismailia, while Al-Ahram reported protests in Qena, Beni Suef and Damanhour.

In Luxor, Brotherhood protesters began demonstrating at the city’s main Abou al-Haggag Square. What started out as verbal scuffles with residents swiftly turned into clashes. Eyewitnesses reported shots fired in the air and attacks against Coptic properties, mainly shops.

The Interior Ministry gave orders to suspend all railway activity until further notice, MENA reported, in order to “secure the dispersal” of the Nahda and Rabea al-Adaweya sit-ins.