Tensions high in Egypt after deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians

Protests over church burnings continuing in central Cairo after weekend of deadly clashes

Published 09 May 2011
Coptic Christians are picking up the pieces after violent clashes over the weekend in which two churches were set ablaze and 12 people were killed.

More than 180 people have been injured since violence broke out on Saturday over rumours that a church was holding a Christian woman against her will because she wanted to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man.

Hundreds of Salafist Muslims surrounded the Coptic Saint Mena Church in the rundown district of Imbaba to demonstrate, setting the front of the building alight with Christians still inside.

The woman at the centre of the rumours has appeared on Christian TV to dismiss the allegations.

Groups of Christians and Muslims hurled firebombs and stones at one another in the streets, while gunshots were also heard.

Homes and shops were also targeted, and the nearby Virgin Mary Church was also set on fire. Riot police managed to bring the situation under control after using teargas to disperse the crowds.

Church leaders led prayers for the dead in services on Sunday and declared three days of mourning.

There were further skirmishes yesterday afternoon as hundreds of Christians gathered outside the state television building in central Cairo, calling for the resignation of Egypt’s top military leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and accusing the army of failing to protect them.

Protests outside the state television building have continued into today.

The government has taken a hard line in response to the violence, with the 190 people arrested to stand trial in the Supreme Military Court as a “deterrent to all those who think of toying with the potential of this nation”.

It has promised to pay compensation to the families of those killed and injured in the violence.

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