Saturday, May 07, 2011

Six Dead in Egyptian Sectarian Violence

6 dead in Egyptian sectarian violence

Cairo, Egypt -- Six people were killed and 120 injured in sectarian clashes outside a church in Cairo on Saturday, officials said.

An angry group of Muslim Salafists attacked the Saint Mena Coptic Orthodox Church. They were upset over reports of a woman being held against her will after allegedly converting to Islam.

"With my own eyes I saw three people killed and dozens injured," said Mina Adel, a Christian resident. "There's no security here. There's a big problem. People attacked us, and we have to protect ourselves."

Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesman Alla Mahmoud said in a statement that six people were killed and 120 injured in the violence.

Authorities sent soldiers and police to help secure the area.

Tensions have risen this year between Egypt's Muslim majority and its Coptic minority.

A Coptic church in the town of Alexandria was bombed on New Year's Day, killing 23 people. The Palestinian Islamic Army, which has links to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for what was the deadliest attack on Christians in Egypt in recent times.

Ten days later, a gunman killed a Christian man and wounded five other Christians on a train in Egypt.

In November, a group with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq announced that all Christians in the Middle East would be "legitimate targets," as the group's deadline for Egypt's Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.

The group's claim that the Coptic Church in Egypt is holding female prisoners is based on widespread rumors of Coptic women in Egypt converting to Islam and being detained by the church in an attempt to compel or persuade them to return to their original faith.

About 9% of Egypt's 80 million residents are Coptic Christians. They base their theology on the teachings of the Apostle Mark, who introduced Christianity to Egypt, according to St. Takla Church in Alexandria, the capital of Coptic Christianity.

The religion split with other Christians in the 5th century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Journalists Ian Lee and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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