CAIRO: Police have arrested 15 people after clashes between Muslims and Christians in a village south of the capital, police officials said Tuesday.
Police cordoned off Ezzbat Wassif on Tuesday and mounted patrols in the village, searching for people involved in Monday s fighting as well as ensuring calm, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Villagers fought with sticks and stones, leaving at least 11 people wounded, said residents who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Police, however, said only six people were injured but confirmed that one was in serious condition in hospital.
Rioters managed to set three houses on fire before police restored order. The violence erupted in the village of Al-Ayat, some 15 miles south of Cairo, following Muslim anger over the construction by the local Christian minority of a center for their community, a police official told AFP. The district s Islamists reportedly accused the Christians of seeking to turn the centre into a church. The clashes left five Muslims and three Christians wounded, but none were believed to be in serious condition. Egypt s Christians, who account for around a 10th of the population, need authorizations to build churches, while the construction of mosques is virtually unrestricted. The sectarian tension has been on the rise in recent months. On Saturday witnesses said clashes also broke out in a village near the southern Egyptian town of Bani Mazar after Muslims accused Christians of burning copies of the Quran. One Christian was killed and several other people wounded in violence that broke out in the southern Nile city of Luxor when Muslims protested that Christians were building a church without authorization. Incidents also took place late last year in the Nile Delta and in Alexandria, north of Cairo. Following the Islamist opposition s strong showing in the November-December parliamentary polls, the government announced measures to ease restrictions on church-building. The move was interpreted as an attempt to allay Christian fears of a further Islamization of society but the Christian community has since complained that the new decree was not being implemented. Agencies