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Egypt: Death toll rises in Christian-Muslim violence

ultimo aggiornamento: 09 marzo, ore 15:04

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Cairo, 9 March (AKI) - At least ten people were killed in violence between minority Christians and Muslims in Cairo late Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported on Wednesday. Initial reports said six people had died in the clashes which began during a protest by Copts against the burning of a church last Saturday.

MENA quoted a senior health ministry official as saying 110 people were wounded in the violence which erupted when Coptic Christian protesters blocked a highway in the Egyptian capital, protesting against Saturday's burning of the church in the province of Helwan.

The clashes between Christians and Muslims erupted in the poor working-class district of Moqattam after at least 1,000 Christians gathered there to protest the torching of the Helwan church.

Christians and Muslims began throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at each other in Moqattam, a security source was quoted as saying. Several cars were reportedly set alight.

An army statement said it "successfully handled the riots on Tuesday." The military reportedly fired shots in the air to break up the riot but took some time to quell it.

One 18-year old Christian was reportedly killed by a bullet that struck him in the back but it was unclear who fired the shot. Some witnesses were cited as saying they saw protesters carrying weapons.

A mob set the Helwan church on fire last Saturday after clashes between Coptis and Muslims that left two people dead.

The violence was reportedly triggered by a feud between two families, which disapproved of a romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman in the village of Sol, residents were quoted as telling Egyptian state TV.

Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council that is governing the country after former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster on 11 February, said on Monday the army would rebuild the church before the Easter holidays.

There is a long history of animosity between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population, complain of systematic discrimination and have been the target of a number of sectarian attacks.

Twenty-three people were killed on New Year's Eve when a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up as worshippers left a church in the northern port city of Alexandria and scores were injured.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came after an Al-Qaeda-linked group said it was behind a deadly bombing of a Baghdad church on 31 October last year and threatened Coptic Christians as well.

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