Religious violence struck again in Egypt this past weekend leaving an estimated 29 dead and 272 wounded, according to CNN reporters in the area.
The latest series of bloodshed was mounted from a protest on Sunday in Cairo for equality of places to worship for Coptic Christians. Christians and Muslims united to argue for rights for the religious sect.
There are disputes as to the exact cause of the outburst. Twelve army troops were killed, adding to their claim that they were attacked by protesters. However, civilians note that they marched peacefully and did not recall anyone on their side inciting violence. The people felt that the army overreacted to their protests. Many observers claimed they opened fire on people, an atypical and shocking move for the Egyptian military.
The clashes left glass, burned out cars and riot police in the streets of Cairo. An air of tension and uneasiness hung over the city on Monday.
“Instead of going forward, we found ourselves scrambling for security,” Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said on state television.
Leaders from both the army and civilian groups feel that outside influences may have caused the violence to get out of control on Sunday.
Egypt has been in turmoil and change since February when youth protesters toppled the government of former dictator Hosni Mubarak. As the country has attempted to rebuild, the prime minister has taken a leadership role.
The national army, however, is still in place from the Mubarak regime. Young protesters have not backed down on their pressure for reforms and changes to the Egyptian way of life. More and more, the youth see the military as a holdover from the Mubarak era and have spoken out against the national forces.
The White House has offered its support to the Egyptian people, while condemning the massive violence that occurred and pleading for calm.
“Now is a time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt,” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities — including Copts — must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom,” Carney added.
The White House will have to continue to tow the line with the situation in Egypt. With support for new conflicts so low at home, the U.S. government cannot afford, nor handle, further conflicts in the Middle East and North African regions of the world. The spring invasion of Libya, for instance, was led by the United Nations with the U.S. in a limited support role. The only position of strength the U.S. should use at this point is its bully pulpit as it urges democracy around the world.