Egypt Independent

Live Updates: As death toll rises in clashes, mobs attack Christian businesses

A group of mostly Coptic protesters clashed this evening with military and police forces in the Maspero area of Cairo. We bring you live updates of events as they happen.

12:45 am: Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announces that he will host an emergency meeting with the "ministerial crisis management committee" on Monday to discuss this evening's events.

12:18 am: Eyewitnesses in downtown Cairo report that groups of thugs are attacking Christian-owned businesses, including a liqour store on Mahmoud Bassiouni St., near Abdel Moneim Riyadh Square, which was the center of clashes earlier in the evening.

12:00 am: Prime Minister Essam Sharaf writes on the cabinet's Facebook page that "invisible hands are plotting to partition Egypt."

11:55 pm: Further confirming speculation of a crackdown on independent media, Randa Abul Azm, a journalist with the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya tells Al-Masry Al-Youm that earlier in the evening a group of plainclothed men tried to break into their building after they spotted a camera on the balcony. The landlord then told the Al-Arabiya producers to stop filming or he would turn off the electricity. "This is very reminiscent of 2 and 3 February," when the Mubarak regime cracked down on independent media ahead of the "Battle of the Camel" attacks on protesters. 

11:50 pm: State TV announces that the death toll from the clashes has reached 23. There are no specifications of how many of the dead are soldiers or police and how many are protesters.

11:43 pm: A group of men march up Qasr al-Ainy Street in downtown Cairo chanting, "Islamic, Islamic!," a common slogan of Islamist groups. State TV has announced that a curfew is in place from 2:00 am until 7:00 am.  

11:26 pm: A fierce street battle continues on Ramses Street, near the Coptic Hospital between two groups in civilian clothes. A number of cars are on fire as the groups throw molotov cocktails and stones back and forth.

11:15 pm: The Ulama Shoura Council, Egypt’s highest Salafi body, calls on the military to handle the recent escalation of violence “without shedding blood,” and to forcibly punish those “responsible” for them.

10:50 pm: Prime Minister Essam Sharaf states on his Facebook page: "What is happening now is not clashes between Christians and Muslims. Rather, it is an attempt to sow chaos and strife."

10:45 pm: Hundreds of thugs attack the Coptic Hospital in Ramses, where scores of injured are currently being hospitalized. The thugs smashed cars in the street but were unable to gain entry to the hospital.

10:45 pm: An eye-witness reports that protesters attempting to move from Abdel Moneim Riad Square to Tahrir Square were charged by a police pick-up truck travelling at high speed. The pick-up truck emerged from behind military police, who were blocking the entrance to Tahrir. Small groups of protesters continue to attempt to re-group in the surrounding streets.

10:43 pm: The Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, condemns the clashes, blaming both Coptic protesters and the military.

10:30 pm: The Cabinet’s crisis management committee convenes to discuss the Maspero clashes. On its Facebook page, the cabinet affirms that Egypt will move forward with the parliamentary elections.

10:25 pm: An eye-witness reports that police and military police have control of Tahrir Square, and the protesters appear to have left the area. Police and military police are mingling with groups of people in civilian clothes, some of whom are chanting "The people and the army are one hand."

10:20 pm: Prime Minister Essam Sharaf says the sole beneficiaries of the Maspero clashes are the enemies of the 25 January revolution.

10:16 pm: The 25 January Youth Coalition calls for unity between Muslims and Christians.

9:53 pm: The Egyptian Social Democratic Party slams the military council, saying escalation of violence is engineered to abort democratic transition.

9:43 pm: Three news producers at Egyptian State TV denounce on their Twitter accounts their television channel's coverage of the clashes, accusing them of  “sectarian incitement.”

9:40 pm: Al-Jazeera TV quotes a security source as saying death toll has risen to 22.

9:37 pm: Eye-witnesses say military police and protesters clash in Tahrir Square.

9:31 pm: Interior Ministry says 19 killed, 160 injured in the clashes so far.

9:29 pm: Information Minister Osama Heikal blames “external forces” for encouraging Maspero clashes. Heikal says the Egyptian state is seriously threatened “beyond sectarian strife.”

9:25 pm: Eyewitnesses say a group of thugs are attacking Christian protesters in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber district.

9:22pm: Interior Ministry puts death toll at 12.

9:22 pm: Military police stormed into the offices of the private Channel 25 television channel located at Maspero, and asked journalists if they were hiding protesters or if there was anyone throwing stones from the balcony. Soldiers demanded to see the ID cards of journalists at the channel to check who was Christian, physically assaulting some, including one women who was pregnant. The channel stopped their live broadcasts, but said they hoped to resume service soon.

9:21 pm: Military police are chasing protesters around downtown Cairo.

9:18 pm: Central Security Forces are moving towards protesters from Tahrir Square, sandwiching them between Abdel Moneim Riad Square and Tahrir. Protesters are hiding in side streets.

9:17 pm: Ministry of Health says 17 are dead and over 55 wounded.

9:12 pm: Human rights activist Hossam Bahgat confirms 17 dead at the Coptic Hospital.

9:10 pm: Eye-witness reports indicate that protesters in the area of Abdel Moneim Riad Square have push back thugs who had been attcking them. Protesters have now taken control of the surrounding streets.

9:05 pm: Clashes are continuing at Abdel Moneim Riad Square, close to Tahrir Square. The military and police have stepped back, and the clashes now appear to be between people in civilian clothes on both sides.

9:00 pm: Prominent Coptic activist Naguib Gobrail is reported as injured.

8:55 pm: The same eye-witness reports that a large group of "thugs" in Mahmoud Bassiouni Street, near the Egyptian Museum, are throwing rocks at protesters. One protester is seen responding with a Molotov cocktail. A police water cannon truck is seen crashed into a barrier in Mahmoud Bassiouni Street.

8:50 pm: One eye-witness reports that earlier he saw a large group of "thugs" entering the Maspero area and attacking Coptic protesters, beating them seriously.

8:47 pm: An Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter in the morgue of the Coptic Hospital in Ramses, near Maspero, says there are at least 12 bodies of dead protesters. Witnesses tell her there are at least three more bodies in a nearby church.

8:44 pm: Activists on Facebook and Twitter slam what they describe as the biased coverage of the clashes from state-run TV channels.

8:40 pm: Al-Masry Al-Youm reporters witnessed many injured people at the Coptic Hospital in Abbasseya. The floor was drenched in blood and victims' families were crying.

8:34 pm: State TV reports that there are three dead from among the ranks of the military and police. There are still no reports of how many protesters have been killed.

8:32 pm: Coptic websites claim at least four protesters were killed during clashes with military and police.

8:27 pm: A group of protesters starts marching towards Tahrir Square from the direction of Maspero. Tear gas is fired in an attempt to disperse protesters.

8:25 pm: Al-Jazeera TV reports that solidarity protests are underway in four other governorates, including Alexandria.

8:22 pm: Al-Jazeera TV cites a military source saying that he anticipates more causalities within the army. So far, two soldiers were reportedly killed, 30 injured.

8:20 pm: Coptic protesters cleared from outside Maspero building. A group of what appear to be protesters is seen standing next to a group of Central Security Forces officers, chanting "Allahu Akbar!" –  meaning "God is Great!"

8:18 pm: Police fire tear gas to disperse Coptic protesters in Abdel Moneim Riyadh area.

8:16 pm: Prime Minister Essam Sharaf holds direct talks with military and security officials to “contain the situation.”

8:09 pm: Al-Hurra TV says military police have stormed their Cairo office searching for Coptic protesters.