Islamist mob parades nuns in Cairo as prisoners of war after six hours looting church school and replacing cross with banner resembling Al Qaeda flag
Franciscan School looted and classrooms burned to the ground
Nuns subjected to abuse as they were paraded through the streets
Two Christians killed since government moved against protesters
Dozens of churches, homes and businesses owned by Christians attacked
By Mail Foreign Service PUBLISHED: 17:29 EST, 18 August 2013 | UPDATED: 05:38 EST, 19 August 2013
A mob marched nuns through the battle-torn streets of Cairo ‘like prisoners of war’ in the latest outrage against Egypt’s Christian minority.
Sister Manal, principal of a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo, watched for six hours as a mob looted the building, knocked the cross off the gate and replaced it with a black banner resembling the flag of Al Qaeda.
The classrooms were then burned to the ground and the women taken away, attracting a crowd of abusive onlookers.
An Egyptian army officer raises his gun at the crowd outside a mosque in Cairo. Elsewhere nuns were paraded like 'prisoners of war' after Franciscan School attacked by Islamists
Almost 900 have died during four days of extreme violence between police and activists supporting ousted President Morsi
Police told Sister Manal that the nuns had been targeted by hardline Islamists, convinced that they had given Muslim children an inappropriate education.
‘We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,’ she said. ‘At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us.’
Siblings Wardah and Bedour, two Christian women employed by the school, also found themselves having to fight their way through the mob while being groped, hit and insulted by the extremists.
So far two Christians have been killed since the military-backed government moved against protesters calling for former president Mohamed Morsi’s reinstatement.
And dozens of churches, homes and businesses owned by Christians have been attacked and razed to the ground.
Armoured vehicles are pictured stationed in front of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square
‘I am terrified and unable to focus,’ said Boulos Fahmy, the pastor of a Catholic church a short distance away from Manal’s school. ‘I am expecting an attack on my church any time now.’
And Bishop Ibram, head of the local Coptic Orthodox church, said he had instructed Christians and clerics not to resist the mobs of Islamists to try and avoid any loss of life.
‘The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five churches they had already ransacked to see if they could get more,’ he said.
‘They were loading our chairs and our benches on trucks and when they had no space for more, they just destroyed them.’
Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Egypt, where they make up 10 per cent of the population of 90million.
Women supporting President Morsi take to the streets during continued protests in Cairo
The number of anti-Christian attacks increased after the Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011 and saw the rise of extremists.
But Christians have faced increasing violence ever since Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by his Muslim Brotherhood party.
Clashes on Saturday between police and supporters of the country’s ousted president killed 79 people, according to Egypt’s interim government.
This brings the death toll after four days of extreme violence in the country to 888 people.
A total of 36 people were killed when Muslim Brotherhood detainees tried to escape from a prison truck convoy in northern Cairo.
Gunmen fired on trucks carrying more than 600 prisoners rounded up in earlier street violence between Egyptian security forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.