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Muslims Riot in Response to Play in Egypt

October 22, 2005|From Times Wire Services

CAIRO — About 5,000 Muslims rioted outside a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Friday to denounce a play they considered offensive to Islam. Police responded by beating protesters and firing tear gas into the crowd, leaving three people dead and more than 90 injured, officials and security sources said.

Police said 53 protesters were arrested as people hurled stones, smashed windows and tried to storm St. George Church. Protesters also set a police car on fire and wrecked eight other cars, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

An Associated Press photographer saw police fire rubber bullets into the crowd, causing injuries. Police said officers only fired rubber bullets into the air while trying to disperse the crowd.

One protester, Mohammed Zakaraya Hassan, 48, died of circulatory collapse after being trampled and inhaling tear gas, said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Security sources reported two other deaths.

The riot was sparked by the distribution of a DVD of a play performed at the church two years ago. The play, "I Was Blind but Now I Can See," tells the story of a young Christian who converts to Islam and becomes disillusioned.

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