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Violence intensifies in Egypt

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Violence intensifies in Egypt

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CAIRO – Muslim-Christian sectarian violence intensified in Egypt this weekend, spurring an emergency meeting of the Cabinet and public exhortations from Coptic Christians for international protection.
At least 12 people were killed and 232 others were wounded in sectarian clashes outside a Cairo church, according to state TV. Officials said violence began over rumors that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held at the church against her will.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf postponed a trip to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the church attack and hold the emergency meeting, according to EgyNews, Egypt’s official news agency.
A small group of Coptic Christians gathering near the US Embassy in Cairo today called for international protection of Egypt’s Christian community and condemned the government for not doing more to protect them.
In the Cairo neighborhood of Maspiro, violence erupted when several hundred people, predominantly Christian but also Muslims, demonstrated in favor of national unity in front of the TV building.
Stones were hurled and people threw bricks from rooftops on predominantly Christian protesters. Some people were injured.
Chants could be heard of “with our souls and blood we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross.” Military riot police with red helmets and clubs separated mutually hostile crowds.
Problems between Egypt’s Muslim majority and its Coptic Christian minority have been on the rise in recent months, with a number of violent clashes reported between the two groups. Tensions flared after a recently-published US government report on international religious freedom detailed the hostility targeting the minority Copts in the predominantly Muslim society.
During clashes on Saturday, witnesses said an armed group of Muslims marched on Saint Mena Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt.
Witnesses said Muslims and Christians exchanged gunfire, sending people running for cover.
“With my own eyes I saw three people killed and dozens injured,” said Mina Adel, a Christian resident. “There’s no security here. There’s a big problem. People attacked us, and we have to protect ourselves.”
There were conflicting reports about who attacked the church.