Four Christian Copts, one Muslim killed in violence north of Cairo
Such confrontations have increased after ouster of Mubarak
In some of the worst sectarian violence in Egypt in many months, five Egyptians were killed and eight wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims in El Khusus, a town near Cairo this past weekend. Such confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Hard-line Islamists here have freer reign than they did under Mubarak's rule.
Four Christian Copts and one Muslim were killed when members of both communities started fighting and shooting at each other in El Khusus north of the Egyptian capital.
Mobs broke store windows belonging to Christians, and one reporter saw a burned-out Coptic day care center and several damaged shops belonging to Christian traders. An apartment inhabited by Muslims was also burned.
Violence broke out late last week when a group of Christian children were drawing on a wall of a Muslim religious institute. A Reuters reporter said he saw what looked like a swastika drawn on the wall. Muslim residents said it had offended them because it looked like a cross.
"I saw the kids drawing on the wall after afternoon prayers so I grabbed them and told them to remove what they'd just written," Mahmoud al-Alfi, a Muslim resident said.
A second man arrived and started beating the children, drawing a large crowd. The situation deteriorated when someone drew a gun and fired into the air, killing one boy with a stray bullet.
"Suddenly the area was full of weapons," Alfi said.
The president's office expressed condolences to the victims and vowed to fight any sectarian violence.
"The presidency ... totally rejects any attempt against the unity and cohesiveness of Egyptian society and will decisively confront any attempt to spark sectarian strife among Egyptian people, Muslim and Christian," according to a statement.
Leaders were quick to condemn the sectarian violence which comes as Egypt struggles with a severe economic crisis and high inflation after two years of political upheaval.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, of Egypt's leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, urged measures to prevent the situation from escalating and to "preserve the national character which characterizes the Egyptian people, Muslims and Christians," MENA said.
"The sectarian riots which happened in El Khusus are unacceptable and grave," Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood political party, said on his Facebook Web site. "There are some who want to set Egypt ablaze and create crises."
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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