Egypt Copts Blast Mursi at Memorial After Fatal Weekend Clashes

Hundreds of grieving Coptic Christians packed inside a Cairo cathedral called for an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule after the worst sectarian clashes in months laid bare the polarization in the country.

The anguish in the church today erupted ahead of funerals for at least four Christians killed in weekend fighting with Muslims in the Greater Cairo town of Khosous. The skirmishing was the bloodiest in a weekend of political violence as a leading youth organization took its opposition to Islamist President Mohamed Mursi to the streets.

“Leave,” some of the protesters chanted in reference to Mursi, echoing the calls that drove his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, from office during the 2011 uprising. Others, in between sobs, yelled: “Down, down, with the Murshid’s rule,” a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide. Others dubbed Mursi a “puppet president.”

Compounding the unrest was a strike by train drivers and conductors that largely paralyzed the nation’s railway system and highlighted the deepening tensions in the Arab world’s most populous nation, which has seen little of the economic or political revival hoped for after Mursi took office in June.

Authorities referred striking workers for investigation so legal action could be taken against them, Hussein Zakariya, the head of the country’s railway authority, told state-run Middle East News Agency.

Reports about what triggered the fighting in Khosous were contradictory. One account held that Christian boys were caught defacing the outside wall of a mosque.

Authorities opened an investigation into the violence at youth activist protests in Cairo and other cities, a move that could open the door to new allegations against Mursi’s opponents.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net; Salma El Wardany in Cairo at selwardany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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