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Egypt tightens security after inter-faith clashes

May 10, 2011

CAIRO:  Egypt stepped up security around churches in Cairo Monday after two days of clashes between minority Christians and Muslims that killed 12 people and highlighted rising inter-faith tensions.

The violence that left a church wrecked by fire and more than 238 people wounded at the weekend was triggered by rumors that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam.

Egypt’s ruling military council met the prime minister and several cabinet members Monday to discuss how “to bury the sectarian strife and to deal with the security breakdown,” the state MENA news agency reported.

The clashes pose a challenge for Egypt’s new military rulers, under pressure to impose security and revive the ailing economy while seeking to avoid the tough security tactics against Islamists used by Hosni Mubarak.

A tight security cordon restricted access around Saint Mina church in Imbaba, the Cairo district where the clashes erupted Saturday evening and extended into Sunday. Another church, Saint Mary’s, was damaged by fire.

The army has said that 190 people arrested after the clashes would be tried in military courts over the violence.

Security sources said 15 other people were detained on Monday, including the husband of the woman at the center of the violence, as well as a Christian coffee shop owner.

Hundreds of Christians have also staged a sit-in in front of the television station in central Cairo calling for Muslims who had killed Copts and burned churches in recent months to be put on trial.

In the northern city of Alexandria, hundreds of Christians blocked the main coastal road to protest against the Cairo violence, sparking clashes with drivers.

Members of Egypt’s Christian minority and even some Muslims have blamed the tensions on the emergence of Salafists, followers of a strict interpretation of Islam who were seen to have been repressed by Mubarak’s security forces.
Others believe remnants of the Mubarak regime are to blame.

Egypt’s highest religious authority, Al-Azhar, and the Grand Mufti have also warned against allowing strife to tear the fabric of the country.



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