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Egypt demonstrators mark killing of Christians

October 9, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of Egyptians on Wednesday held candles, waved pictures of slain protesters and demanded retribution from former generals while marking the second anniversary of the killing of 26 people, mostly Christians, in a military crackdown.

But participants in the solemn vigil were divided about criticizing the military over the deaths, a sign of shifting attitudes since the army’s ouster of the Islamist president last summer.

The more belligerent chanted “down with military rule,” a slogan made famous during the chaotic military-led transition period after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Some even called for the execution of former army chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, hoisting aloft pictures of him and other now-retired generals they blame for the deaths. One laid a picture of Tantawi on the street for cars to drive over it.

“There an Islamist fascism and there is a military fascism,” said Madeha el-Malawani, an activist in her sixties. “There will be no compromises over the blood and I can’t negotiate over the dead bodies of our sons.”

Other demonstrators rejected the anti-military chants, describing the army as a savior for its July 3 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after millions marched demanding his resignation.

“We didn’t come out against the military ... Some individuals and leaders made mistakes and I want to hold them accountable for what they did,” said Helmi Hassan, the father of a protester killed in one of the many demonstrations that turned bloody under military rule.

After the vigil ended, a few participants marched toward Tahrir Square chanting against the military. They were blocked from the square by security forces, who dispersed them with tear gas.

The “Maspero Massacre,” named after the state TV building where armored vehicles rolled over bodies of Christian protesters and gunned down others on Oct. 9, 2011, was one of the worst incidents of state-perpetrated violence during the military rule.

Back then, Coptic Christians — who compose nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million majority Muslim population — were protesting a major lack of security after Mubarak’s fall. Intimidation and attacks by Muslim extremists were rampant, with the razing of a church in southern Egypt particularly crystalizing worries among Copts.

For many Egyptians, the violent breakup at Maspero knocked the long-revered army off the pedestal they had held it on over the years, driving anti-military protests that became increasingly deadly. Among those killed there was Mina Daniel, a prominent Christian activist who turned into a revolutionary icon.

While Wednesday’s demonstrators may have mixed feelings toward the military, all voiced enmity to former president Morsi and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi had honored Tantawi and his chief deputy with Egypt’s most distinguished decoration.

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