The Prosecutor General has ordered the arrest of 11 persons on charges of murder, attempted murder, arson and possession of unlicensed weapons following violence on Saturday in Bani Ahmed, Minya.
The clashes left at least one person dead and 17 injured, with several residences and establishments belonging to Coptic residents destroyed.
The incident followed a month of increasing tension between Coptic residents in Bani Ahmed and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi in neighbouring villages; it also comes amid a series of sectarian attacks targeting Coptic Christians in various parts of the country, including northern Sinai and Sohag.
The rise in sectarian violence has led human rights groups to accuse some Islamists, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, of inciting religious hatred. The government has also received criticism for its failure to prevent such incidents and to protect the Christian minority.
Sarah Ashmaouy, the programme coordinator for Minority Rights Group International in Egypt, said the increase in sectarian violence is an effect of Islamists exploiting the sectarian issue in their discourse following the 30 June events.
“There is a state’s absence in protecting Coptic citizens,” she said. “We have seen this negligence of the authorities since the time of Mubarak.”
A group of 16 human rights organisations released a joint statement on Wednesday that condemned “the continued negligence” of state institutions to provide protection to Christians.
The statement said this negligence is revealed in the government’s failure to confront sectarian attacks and hold the culprits behind such incidents accountable.
“This negligence reveals that the pattern of impunity which spread during the Mubarak era and remained in place throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to this day,” the statement read.