Five dead, 23 wounded in Egyptian sectarian clashes

Salafists surround Coptic Church outside of Cairo demanding the release of a Christian woman who had converted to Islam.

By REUTERS
May 8, 2011 01:04
1 minute read.
Protesters fill Egypt's Tahrir Square

Protesters fill Egypt's Tahrir Square Cairo 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

 
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CAIRO - At least five people were killed and more than 20 were wounded in a sectarian clash in Egypt on Saturday over a Christian woman who had allegedly converted to Islam, officials said.

The strife represents another challenge to Egypt's military rulers who are trying to restore law and order after President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in a popular uprising in February.

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Witnesses said the army and police deployed armoured vehicles to the Imbaba suburb of Cairo after some 500 Islamist Salafists surrounded a Coptic Church, demanding those in the church hand over the woman to them. Details were sketchy.

The Salafists -- conservative Islamists -- and Christians exchanged gunfire and threw firebombs and stones at each other before the army and police arrived. Security forces fired tear gas to stop the clashes.

The governor of Giza province told journalists at least one person died and 23 were wounded.

Egypt state television put the death toll at about five.

Interfaith relationships often cause tension in Egypt, where Christians make up about 10 percent of its 80 million people.

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Christians complain about unfair treatment, including rules they say make it easier to build a mosque than a church.

Last year Egypt saw more than its usual share of sectarian strife, and a rights groups has said such clashes have been on the rise. Muslims and Christians had been brought together during the protests that ousted Mubarak

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