Black-uniformed riot police battled to prevent thousands of angry Muslims from storming a church Friday, beating protesters with sticks and firing tear gas in a riot that ended with one person dead and 53 others arrested.
Police said about 90 people, including 20 police officers, were wounded outside St. George Church in this Mediterranean city in what began as a demonstration against a theatrical play deemed offensive to Islam.
The rioters hurled stones that injured police officers, smashed church windows and damaged the white facade of the three-story church, a police official said. They also set a police car on fire and wrecked eight other cars, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
A photographer for The Associated Press saw police fire rubber bullets into the crowd, causing injuries. But the police denied this, saying their men fired rubber bullets only into the air to disperse the crowd.