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US concerned at Coptic Christian arrests in Egypt

1/16/2010 Egypt (AFP) – The United States said it was “deeply concerned” at the arrests Saturday of Coptic Christians heading to show support for fellow Copts killed and injured in Egypt earlier this month.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s arrests of individuals traveling to the Egyptian town of Naga Hammadi to express support for those tragically killed and injured during” the celebrations,” said Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman.

“According to publicly available evidence, those arrested included bloggers, democracy and religious freedom advocates,” he added.

“We call on the government of Egypt to uphold the rights of all to peacefully express their political views and desires for universal freedoms and to ensure due process for those detained,” Toner said.

The drive-by shooting took place after worshippers emerged from midnight mass before Christmas, marked by Copts and other Orthodox communities across the world on January 7.

The killings, which were condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, sparked outrage among the country’s Copts, who make up nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, and led to clashes with police.

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