Nightly News   |  October 10, 2011

Cairo is once again the scene of violence

Egypt's Coptic church blasted authorities Monday for allowing repeated attacks on Christians as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to 26, most of them Christians who were trying to stage a peaceful protest in Cairo. NBC’s Richard Engel reports from Cairo.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We now turn from our top medical story tonight to the Middle East . It was just over about eight months ago when we arrived in Egypt , where the Mubarak regime was coming apart before our very eyes right there in Tahrir Square . It included an explosion of violence, one part of the Arab Spring as it became known. But from those high hopes back then, fast forward to tonight's headline from there, another explosion of violence and a rising death toll. And tonight our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is once again back in Cairo with the very latest. Richard , good evening,

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Good evening, Brian . Egypt 's transition.... This wasn't what the revolution was supposed to bring. Funerals after a massacre last night of Christians by Egypt 's mainly Muslim army . It started yesterday evening with a peaceful demonstration. Christians , 10 percent of the population here, were demanding justice after one of their churches was burned down last week by increasingly aggressive Islamic radicals. But when the demonstrators reached central Cairo , government troops, witnesses say, attacked. Military vehicles plowed through crowds. The demonstrators responded, attacking troops with stones. Soldiers opened fire, killing 25. Even as some Christians formed a human shield around one soldier to protect him from angry crowds. In a hospital today, we found two young men, one hit by an army truck, the other shot. Both insist the army killed unarmed civilians. Protesters are still gathered tonight in front of the hospital where the bodies of the Christian demonstrators were taken. Many of these people say Egypt 's revolution has brought in a period of chaos and empowered Islamic extremists , leaving Egypt 's Christian minority under threat and now under attack.

Christians told us the revolution has failed. The army is helping the Islamic groups. Adding to the distrust, the ruling military tried to cover up last night's violence. State TV claimed it was the army that was attacked by Christians . It played patriotic music and scenes of Muslim-Christian harmony, even as clashes continued in front of the station's own headquarters. Local TV stations that showed the violence were taken off the air. Today, Islamic radicals with knives and sticks surrounded a car in Cairo allegedly driven by a Christian, and beat him, raising even more questions about what the Egyptian revolution has unleashed.

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ENGEL: We had a dicey satellite signal there and have lost our ability to communicate with Richard live, but you see there the kind of rough day they're having in Cairo in Egypt once again.

WILLIAMS: