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Copts attacked in Egypt's south over homes used as churches

The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo's Shubra al-Kheima district was the target of a previous attack on August 11, 2018
The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo's Shubra al-Kheima district was the target of a previous attack on August 11, 2018 The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo's Shubra al-Kheima district was the target of a previous attack on August 11, 2018 AFP
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Cairo (AFP)

Egyptian villagers have attacked and looted the properties of Coptic Christians in the southern province of Minya in protest at the use of homes and halls for worship, the region's archdiocese said Saturday.

"Four Coptic homes were attacked Friday by residents from the village and other nearby areas," said Bishop Makarios of Minya, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Cairo.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the archdiocese of Minya said "extremists" had attacked the village of Demshaw Hashem because of the "existence of a church".

It said Christian residents of the village use homes and halls for prayer.

"Extremists attacked Copts, stole quantities of jewelry and money, destroyed household appliances and set fire to property," it said.

Three people including a firefighter were injured.

"There have been reports for several days about the intention of extremists to carry out the attack," it said.

Authorities were informed of the threats but security forces arrived to the village after the assault, it added.

A security official said 38 suspects had been arrested.

Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's nearly 100 million people, have long complained of discrimination and intermittent sectarian attacks.

The Coptic minority has been targeted by a series of bloody attacks over the past two years, most claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

On August 11, an attempted suicide attack on a church in northern Cairo was foiled when the presence of security forces prompted the assailant to detonate his explosive belt on a bridge some 200 metres from the house of worship, according to security sources.

Many churches are built illegally in Egypt due to administrative obstacles.

Authorities hailed as a breakthrough a law passed in 2016 on the construction and restoration of churches.

But in late 2017, a church around 100 kilometres south of Cairo was attacked by a crowd chanting hostile slogans and calling for the building's demolition.

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