- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CAIRO — Tens of thousands of Egyptians chanted overnight and early Tuesday against the ruling military council during a massive funeral procession for 17 Christian protesters killed in a Cairo protest.

Mourners packed the Coptic Christian Cathedral in Cairo since late Monday, filling hallways and corridors as funeral prayers were led by top assistants to Pope Shenouda III.

Slogans of “down with military rule” interrupted the prayers, as many accuse the military of bearing primary responsibility for the violence which led to the deaths of 26 people and the injury of more than 500 others on Sunday.

“The people want to topple the Marshal”, the mourners chanted in reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, which took over power on Feb. 11 after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in a mass uprising.

The slain protesters were marching toward Cairo’s television headquarters when they came under attack. Forensic reports said many deaths were caused by armored vehicles that ran down protesters, or by gunshots.

The military, on the other hand, issued a stern warning that it intended to crack down hard on future protests.

In a statement, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it would take the “necessary precautions to stabilize security” and use the full weight of the law to prosecute individuals involved in violence, whether by participation or incitement.

After the cathedral service, a small protest marched to central Cairo’s Tahrir Square accompanying the body of Mena Danial, one of the activists killed on Sunday. Danial’s friends said that he had wanted to have his funeral in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Jan. 25 uprising that toppled Mubarak.

Forensic reports published in the press showed that the 20-year-old activist died of a gunshot to his back.

The bodies of the protesters were buried in a church-owned mass grave in the 6th of October suburb in the desert west of Cairo.

Egypt’s Coptic Church has denounced the killings and accused the government of allowing repeated attacks on Christians to go unpunished. The church announced three days of fasting and prayers as Christians’ sense of injustice hit a new high.

One priest said that the fast was a means of showing loss of confidence in the authorities, and had not been invoked by the church since former President Anwar Sadat’s program of Islamizing laws during the 1970s.

Some Muslims said that they would join the Christians in their fast as a gesture of solidarity. A campaign named “Fast4Egypt” spread on social networking sites.

Sunday’s violence was the deadliest incident involving Christians since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak eight months ago.

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