Middle East

Egypt clashes: Eyewitness account

Protesters on street, fire.

Egypt's prime minister has appealed for calm after 24 people were killed in clashes between Coptic Christians and security forces.

The violence broke out after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a church in Aswan province last week, with Muslims joining in on both sides.

Sandra, a Christian and local resident in the Nile side of the city, gave the BBC her account of what happened.

"Tanks were running over people"

"I live in Maspero, (in Kornish El Nile) four buildings away from the Nile-side state TV building.

When I got home at around 17:00 there were a number of protesters gathered, but at that stage nothing much was happening.

Image caption "What happened next all took place so quickly - it was directly underneath us"

Three days earlier there had been similar protests which had got nasty so you could have guessed which way these would go.

At about 18:00 a number of other protesters arrived - I would say at this stage there were hundreds of them but it's difficult to put an exact figure on it.

The army came in after that. We live on the seventh floor and weren't watching all the time, but we couldn't see that anything had happened to warrant the army's next actions.

What happened next all took place so quickly - it was directly underneath us.

The army moved in with tanks and were literally running over people. You could see bodies all over the place. People were running and screaming.

Gun shots were fired and bodies were being removed - we don't know where they were taken.

I've never seen people die before. For a while my mother and I were just speechless - in shock.

It was horrible.

Some of the protesters fought back against the army - although it was nothing in comparison to what the army did to them. These protesters were attacking soldiers and using their guns to fire at others.

Image caption "This morning there are many people on the streets and burnt out cars". Photo taken by Sandra from her apartment

The protesters then started a fire which created a barrier between them and the army.

Everyone in our building was talking to each other. We don't have alarm systems so we were trying to work out whether any of the fire had spread to our part of the building.

At one stage the balcony next to us caught fire and my mother and I packed our bags and were ready to go if needed. However, we were both aware that if we left we could get caught in crossfire on the street.

After a while the noise died down and the protesters dispersed.

Things started to calm down and the army cleaned the area. One of their tanks had caught fire and they had to extinguish it to secure the fuel inside.

After that, the Islamists came. They were chanting that they wanted an Islamic country.

This morning there are many people on the streets and burnt out cars.

I fear there will inevitably be more clashes between Muslim and Christian communities."

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