Egyptian Cabinet shortens nighttime curfew

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Egypt’s government announced Thursday it once again shortened a nighttime curfew put in place more than two months ago in much of the country over the unrest that followed the ouster of the country’s president.

Meanwhile, a Muslim man wounded in a widely denounced attack on a wedding party outside a Cairo church died Thursday, raising the death toll in Sunday’s attack to five.

The Cabinet said in a statement the curfew now will be four hours a night, from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., six days a week. On Fridays, the Cabinet said the curfew will remain 10 hours, starting at 7 p.m.

Friday is the start of the weekend in Egypt and has been a day of major protests since its 2011 uprising. Now, supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi take to the streets in rallies Friday that often descend into clashes.

The curfew, effective in a number of cities including the capital, Cairo, was announced along with a nationwide state of emergency in mid-August. It followed a government crackdown on pro-Mursi sit-ins in the capital that killed hundreds and unleashed a wave of violence targeting government offices, security personnel and churches.

Those attacks include Sunday’s assault by masked gunmen on a Coptic Christian church holding a wedding in the Cairo district of Warraq. An Interior Ministry statement issued Thursday said a fifth victim, a Muslim man, had died of the wounds he suffered from the shooting.

He was the only Muslim killed in the attack, which saw motorcycle-riding gunmen spray the wedding party outside the Church of the Virgin Mary with bullets before speeding away.

The attack, whose victims included two young Christian girls, caused an outcry in Egypt, where suspicion immediately fell on Mursi supporters. Many of Mursi supporters have accused Coptic Christians of working to bring down the Islamist president.

More unrest is likely as demonstrations over Mursi’s ouster continue. This Friday, an alliance of pro-Mursi groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, called for rallies around the country as part of protests dubbed the week of “steadfastness.”

The coalition said it will continue rallies to Nov. 4, the day when Mursi is scheduled to appear in court for the first time since the July 3 military coup that toppled him.

Mursi, who remains held at an undisclosed location by the military, faces criminal charges accusing him of inciting the murder of rallying opponents while he was in office.

Authorities have not said whether Mursi will appear at the hearing. They have expressed fear over possible attempts by his supporters to disrupt the trial or rally outside the hearing.

Security officials say the trial is likely to be held in a police academy inside a high-security prison complex in southern Cairo. Mursi supporters accuse government officials of using security concerns as an excuse to postpone the trial.

Security concerns also have been fuelled by a surge in militant attacks in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula. On Thursday, security officials said suspected Islamic militants in a car killed a police officer as he was walking to work in the provincial capital, el-Arish. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.