Official: Kidnapped monks released after southern Egypt clashes

Three monks abducted after bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians were set free Sunday as calm returned to the southern Egyptian village, said a security official. A Muslim was killed in the gunbattle and three Christians were injured, prompting authorities to call for reinforcements to contain the situation. The southern Egyptian province of Minya has a high proportion of Christians and contains several monasteries particularly sacred to the community. Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt's 76.5 million people, generally live in peace with the predominant Muslim population, but tensions flare periodically often over expansions or maintenance work done to monasteries and churches. The latest clashes, however, come against a disturbing backdrop of attacks against Christian jewelers over the past week that prompted one Coptic member of parliament to claim Thursday that police were not adequately protecting the community. On Wednesday, gunmen stormed a jewelry shop in Cairo and killed the Coptic owner and three of his assistants, but did not steal anything.