CAIRO - Four Egyptian Shi'ites were killed on Sunday in an attack by Sunni Muslims fearing the spread of Shi'ite Islam in Egypt, according to reports by state media, witnesses and security sources.
Residents of the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo surrounded the home of a prominent Shi'ite after learning he was hosting a religious gathering, witnesses and security sources told Reuters.
The residents beat the guests and threw petrol bombs at the house, setting it on fire, the sources said. The state newspaper al-Ahram said four Shi'ites had been taken to hospital, and the Health Ministry later said four people injured in the attack had died.
President Mohamed Morsi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood have this month thrown their weight behind a call for jihad in Syria by fellow Sunni Islamists across the Middle East, heightening awareness of sectarian frictions in Egypt, where Shi'ites are a small minority.
Tension among Egypt's hardline Sunnis over the spread of Shi'ism has been increased by a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for a strategic alliance with Egypt.
Nothing came of that proposal, but around 100 Sunni Islamists demonstrated in front of a senior Iranian diplomat's residence in April to protest against Egypt's decision to admit commercial flights from Iran.