CAIRO — At least 19 people were killed Sunday when a protest by Egyptian Christians over the burning of a church escalated into rioting against military rule, with some protesters crushed to death by military vehicles and violence reaching levels not seen since the uprising that overthrew the president in February.
The rioting took place against a backdrop of tension between protesters and the military, which has been in power since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, over the military’s continued postponement of its withdrawal from power. The protests were aimed at the military, both for its perceived failure to protect Coptic churches, and outrage over its prolonged rule, which a recently released timetable said could last into 2014.
The rally began in the mostly Coptic neighborhood of Shubra early Sunday, fueled by anger over the burning of a church in Aswan, in southern Egypt, last week.
Copts, members of Egypt’s Christian minority sect, and some Muslims marched to the Radio and Television Building, a skyscraper in downtown Cairo on the Nile River, where another sit-in was already being staged.
Witnesses said that around 6 p.m., when the two protests converged, protesters and plainclothes security forces began throwing rocks at each other.
The security forces responded by driving their vehicles into the crowd. At least four Copts were run over and killed, witnesses said.