Egypt: President Sisi promises justice after 70-year-old Christian woman stripped and beaten

The President of Egypt has demanded justice after Christians homes were torched and an elderly Coptic woman was stripped naked and beaten in the streets of an Egyptian village.

Egypt's President al-Sisi has condemned the violence.Reuters

Muslims attacked Christian homes in a village in Minya Province on Friday after rumours that a Christian man was having an affair with a Muslim woman.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said no criminals will "escape without justice", calling the violence "regrettable".

The Coptic Pope Tawadros has called for restraint.

Around 300 armed people attacked seven houses owned by Christians in Al-Karm village in Minya province, south of Cairo, on May 20, the diocese of Minya and Abu Qiras said in a statement

"The attackers also stripped an old Christian woman of her clothes in front of a huge crowd in the street," the diocese said. This woman was the mother of the man alleged to have conducted the affair. According to Daily News Egypt, she was 70 years old, and was dragged into the road and beaten.

"His parents already filed a complaint at Abu Qiras police station about receiving threats on 19 May and that they expected those threats to happen the next day," the statement continued, noting that the man had been forced to leave the village.

Christians burned down three Muslim homes in retaliation. Six people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

President Sissi has given orders to the Govenor of Minya to work with armed forces to restore damaged property within a month at the state's expense.

The Govenor, Tarek Nasser initially downplayed the events. According to AP, he denied that an elderly woman had been stripped naked.

"Some irrational youth threw flammable missiles at the houses of Christians in the village and some women ran away in their nightgowns," he said in a statement to the media.

Coptic representatives said authorities had told them they would "chase down the perpetrators and bring them to justice", according to the BBC.

Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church called for Copts to show "self-restraint" and said he was closely following up the issue with political authorities.

The General Bishop fo the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Angaelos, has said: "It is indeed shameful that such mob crimes can be perpetrated against innocent communities at all, of whatever faith or ethnicity, and especially as a result of slanderous and unsubstantiated rumours; and that an elderly mother could be so publicly and indecently humiliated.

"What is also unacceptable is the utter disinterest – at best) – and/or complicit and criminal negligence – at worst – with which the local security services conducted themselves, and the Minya Governor's denial that these crimes occurred. Egypt is at a formative stage of its contemporary history which requires a robust system of law and order that underpins an ethos of equal citizenship and accountability. Any such steps taken at the national level are severely hampered and undermined by these recurring failures at the local level."

Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's foremost religious institution has also denounced the attacks and announced that members of their inter-faith initiative would visit the area.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 per cent of Egypt's population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

Sectarian violence sometimes erupts over disputes on issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.