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Latest update: 24/11/2010
- Christians - Egypt - Muslims - riots
Christian demonstration ends in violent clashes with Egyptian police
Clashes with Cairo police have left dozens injured and one dead after some 150 Christians took to the streets to protest a government decision to halt construction of a church. The violence began Wednesday after protesters smashed cars and windows.
By News Wires (text)
AFP - One demonstrator was killed and dozens injured on Wednesday as Christian protesters clashed with Egyptian police over the refusal of permission for a new church, a security official said.
The clashes came amid mounting sectarian tensions in the Arab world's most populous nation after Muslims set fire to homes owned by the family of a Christian man rumoured to have flirted with a Muslim girl in the south.
A security official told AFP that a young male demonstrator was killed during the protests over the church and that a senior police officer was among the injured.
A crowd of around 150 people had clashed sporadically with police through the morning in the Talibiya district of the capital Cairo, with demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and the police responding with tear gas.
Several police and 12 soldiers were injured in the clashes as well as around 15 demonstrators.
Some of the protesters were led away with blood on their faces, after police hurled rocks at them from a bridge, the security official said, adding that more than 20 people were arrested.
He identified the dead man as Makarios Jad Shukr, 19. Witnesses said he was shot at around 6:30 am (0430 GMT) as demonstrators tried to approach the proposed site of the new church.
"People here feel very discriminated against. We can't build the church -- why are they stopping us?" asked Samih Rashid.
"Every street has a mosque, every church has a mosque next to it," he complained.
More than 20 young Muslim men shouting anti-Coptic slogans threw rocks at the demonstrators under a bridge on the ringroad where some of the police fired tear gas at the Copts.
"This is the way the government starts sectarian strife," said one of the demonstrators, who were heard chanting: "With our blood and with our souls we will sacrifice our lives for you, oh Cross."
They were protesting against the government's decision not to allow the Copts to turn a community centre that they were building into a church, with witnesses saying construction workers had been arrested on their way to the site.
Copts account for between six and 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population and complain of systematic discrimination and marginalisation.
Non-Muslims are required to obtain a presidential decree to construct new religious buildings and must satisfy numerous conditions before permission is granted, in contrast to the ease with which mosques can be built.
The clashes took place just days before Egypt is to go to the polls for a parliamentary election, which is expected to return the ruling National Democratic Party to power.