Muslims attack Christians in Egypt

Thousands of Muslims from Marashda and surrounding villages attacked eight Coptic homes and businesses, including five pharmacies, which were looted and torched. Coptic-owned cars were also torched.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the attacks were caused by rumors that a 55-year-old Coptic man, Nader Masoud, sexually assaulted a 6-year-old Muslim girl.

The attacks on the village, which has a mostly Christian population, started with several Coptic businesses being torched and the Church of Abu Fam having its cross demolished and glass smashed.

AINA reported that Anba Kyrollos, Bishop of Nag Hammadi, said a medical check of the Muslim girl proved her "virginity," but the attacks "took place after the Muslims knew of the medical verdict and the sexual assault was only a rumor."

Bishop Kyrollos said Masoud turned himself in to police for his own safety.

Then clashes broke out again later in the day in Marashda, this time between security forces and the Muslim protesters. The incident occurred after the police arrested 10 Muslims reportedly responsible for some of the morning's violence.

AINA said more than 2,000 Muslims were on the village bridge trying to stop the police from transporting the arrested Muslims. The mob prevented police vehicles from passing, and tried to break into the police cars to free the suspects.

AINA said this led security forces to call for reinforcement troops from the Central Security Directorate in Qena, which fired teargas on the protesters.

According to the newspaper Aldostor-Assly, the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafists groups denied any involvement in the Marshada events.

AINA said there's now a relative calm in the village after a friendly meeting occurred at the church. It was attended by the pastor, security officials, the Muslim girl's family and Muslim elders. They decided to let the courts resolve the issue.

However, AINA said, some Muslims continued to demonstrate in front of the police station where the accused Coptic man is being held.

Meanwhile, Copts are staying in their homes for fear of attacks. The Coptic Church cancelled an evening service celebrating the feast of Epiphany, and security forces are still present in the village.