People walk in front of a burnt house after clashes in Al-Khosous in Qalyubiya governorate (Reuters).
Priest Suriel of the Mar Girgis Church in Khosous has said the
sectarian clashes that have rocked the Qalyubiya Governorate town and
claimed five lives were rooted in a dispute between a Christian and a
Muslim family dating back three months.
“The problem was resolved, and then renewed [again] when a group of Salafis harassed a Coptic woman,” Suriel said. “Some sheikhs incited against Copts and the church in public at
mosques. Security troops arrived late, and clashes took place in their
presence,” he added.
Several masked assailants also reportedly burned the Mar Girgis
nursery, as well as a Baptist church, several stores and a home
belonging to Copts.
The deadly clashes that erupted in Qaloubia Saturday between groups of
Muslim and Christian teenagers followed the latter allegedly painting
offensive drawings on the gates of an Al-Azhar institution in the town,
MENA news agency reported.
The situation further escalated when someone drew a gun and fired into
the air, killing one boy with a stray bullet, Reuters reported. In the aftermath of the violence, 15 people were arrested and the town tightly controlled by police forces.
Update Fresh clashes erupted on Sunday when hundreds
of angry Copts came to the funeral service at St. Mark's Cathedral,
chanting "With our blood and soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the
cross". Some also shouted slogans during the ceremony denouncing
President Mohamed Mursi for failing to protect Christians.
After an emotional church service, where relatives of the dead wept, young
Christians chanted anti-government slogans and started hurling rocks at
police officers outside the cathedral, a Reuters reporter at the scene
said. Some protesters, believed to be Copts, smashed six private cars and set two on fire, prompting an angry reaction from Muslims living in the neighborhood, who threw
home-made petrol bombs and stones at them, a witness said.
The Christians chanted slogans provoking the residents," said Ahmed
Mahmoud, a Muslim resident. "Then the clashes started, they threw stones
at each other and they (Christians) lit up a fire and they shot at us
with cartridge (birdshot) guns."
But Remon Wageh, a church worker, blamed what he called radical Muslims for
the violence. "The minute the Christians loaded the coffins into cars
after the service, a group of bearded radicals threw rocks at us," he
said. ''The police just stood by watching, doing nothing," he said. "They protected the radicals who were hiding behind a line of officers in the street outside the cathedral."
The state news agency MENA said that one person died and that 84 were wounded. Duringh the fighting. Police used birdshot and teargas to disperse the crowd. But most onlookers agreed that the police came much too late in action and initially did nothing to protect the Christians that left the cathedral from attacks.