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Why did Egypt's Army violently suppress Christian protesters? (VIDEO)

Egypt's Army fired Sunday on thousands of Christian protesters demonstrating against a recent church burning, leaving at least 24 people dead. Some say the Army is provoking sectarian violence as a pretext for staying in power.

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Fierce clashes erupted Sunday between Christians protesting a recent attack on a church and the Egyptian military, leaving at least 24 people dead and scores injured.

Ahmed Ali/AP

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A deadly attack by the Egyptian Army on a Christian demonstration Sunday evening left as many as 24 dead, and incited sectarian violence that opened a dark new chapter on Egypt’s future.

The attacks by the Army, and the state media coverage of them, appeared to many observers to be a direct attempt to incite fighting between Christians and Muslims in Egypt. They raised sharp questions about the role of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military council currently ruling Egypt, and its stated intention of guiding Egypt through a transition to democracy. Some say it is provoking the violence as a pretext for staying in power, or at least preserving the privileges and independence of the military.

“Why does the Army and the government kill us?” asked Boula Zakie, tears streaming down his face and onto his black shirt as he sat in the Coptic Hospital and watched his friend being carried past on a stretcher amid the din of wailing. “We feel we are not from this country anymore. I feel this country is going to be Islamic. The Army is the one who shoots the Christian people, and says to the Muslims, ‘Here, take your country now.’ And they forget we are the ones who were here first.”

The violence first began when civilians attacked thousands of Christians who were marching to the state television building to protest what they say was the state’s weak response to the recent burning of a church in southern Egypt. But the march continued, and witnesses said that as soon as it entered the area in front of the building, Army armored personnel carriers drove deliberately into the crowd, crushing and killing people, and troops opened fire.

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