24 injured in Egypt clashes

March 13, 2010 12:00 am

, CAIRO, Mar 13 – Twenty-four people were injured in clashes between Christians and Muslims in northern Egypt, a security official said on Saturday.

Twenty people, both Coptic Christians and Muslim, were also arrested in Friday\’s troubles, the official said.

Fighting broke out in the northwestern province of Mersa Matrouh when Muslim residents began to hurl stones at Christian construction workers they thought were building a church.

The Christians said they were building a wall for a hospice, not a church, the official said.

"Around 400 people were involved in the fighting. Twenty people were arrested, both Muslims and Christians, and 24 were injured," the official said.

"A heavy security presence was deployed to the town and remained overnight to make sure there are no more clashes," he said.

The Copts, the Middle East\’s largest Christian community, make up between six and 10 percent of Egypt\’s 80 million people but complain of frequent discrimination and harassment.

In the worst sectarian attack in years, six Copts and one Muslim policeman were killed when gunmen raked worshippers emerging from a Christmas Eve service in the southern town of Nagaa Hammadi in January.

Three people are on trial over the attack.

Copts are considered equal to Muslims under the Egyptian constitution but must gain presidential permission to build churches and clearance from a governor to renovate them.


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