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1 Dead in Sectarian Rioting in Egypt

Police arrest 80 people in Christian-Muslim violence sparked by attacks at churches.

April 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Police fired into the air with live ammunition and lobbed tear gas at crowds of rioting Christians and Muslims on Sunday, the third day of sectarian violence in Egypt's second-largest city.

One man reportedly died Sunday of his injuries. Police said 40 people had been wounded in clashes and 80 had been arrested over the weekend.

The riots were touched off Friday by knife attacks at three Coptic Christian churches that left one person dead and up to 16 injured. A mentally ill man is being held in the stabbings.

Pelted by stones and bottles, about 2,000 police fought a crowd of about 200 Coptic Christians, who fled into St. Maximus Church in Alexandria. People tossed Molotov cocktails from nearby buildings.

Police were seen beating a Coptic boy, who had been among the crowd that fled. Later, a huge mob of what appeared to be Muslim protesters charged the police cordon from the other side.

Sporadic scuffles continued after nightfall Sunday.

Coptic Christians make up 9% of Egypt's population of 78 million and generally live in peace with the Muslim majority. But sectarian clashes have broken out on occasion. In October, Muslim militants attacked churches in Alexandria protesting a DVD that they deemed offensive to Islam. Four people were killed in that rioting.

Christians complain of discrimination, particularly in the civil service system.

In southern Egypt, meanwhile, police detained 43 university students on suspicion of membership in the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest fundamentalist group, police and group members said.

Mahmoud Hussein, a local Brotherhood leader, said the arrests at Assiut University were part of the authorities' "uninterrupted campaign of detentions."

Sunday's roundups brought to almost 100 the number of Muslim Brotherhood members detained since March.

On Saturday, police detained 12 suspected members in Sharqiya and Behira provinces north of the capital, Cairo.

The crackdowns have focused on provinces where support for the group is strongest and in districts that elected Brotherhood members to parliament last year.

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