Egypt: Frattini condemns Christian killings in south

Rome, 7 Jan. (AKI) - Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has condemned the brutal murder of seven Coptic Christians who were killed in a drive-by shooting in southern Egypt late Wednesday. In a statement released on Thursday, Frattini said he was "horrified" by the violence against the Coptic Christian community in Egypt.

"The international community cannot ignore this and should remain alert to religious intolerance which constitutes a very serious violation of fundamental human rights," Frattini said.

"Italy will continue to defend freedom of religion at every level everywhere, as an absolute and undeniable civil right."

Frattini was speaking ahead of an official visit to Egypt next week when he will meet Egyptian foreign minister Aboul Gheit and other senior officials.

"These acts of violence and discrimination designed to hurt religious minorities like what occurred in Egypt yesterday are cause of particular concern," Frattini said.

He said he would discuss with his Egyptian counterpart measures to protect the Christian community in Egypt to prevent a recurrence of the violence.

On Thursday violent clashes broke out between hundreds of Christian Copts and police in Naj Hammadi in southern Qena province after the killings amid fears of further violence.

The clashes occurred outside a hospital morgue where the bodies of the Coptic Christians had been taken after the killings on Christmas Eve .

Six male churchgoers and a security guard were shot dead outside a church in Naj Hammadi as Christians left a late night mass.

Officials said three men in a car drove by a group of worshippers as they were walking out of the Virgin Mary church and opened fire with machineguns into the crowd just before midnight on Wednesday.


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