Security forces have arrested 20 people in the governorate of Minya after deadly violence in several villages left five people dead and dozens injured.
The Security Directorate of Minya announced that 11 people were arrested from two neighbouring villages, the predominantly Coptic Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim El-Hawarta. A feud over a piece of land between residents turned violent last week and left four people dead.
State-run television reported that prosecution ordered their detention for four days pending investigations.
A statement on Wednesday by the Diocese of Minya and Abu Qurqas said a Coptic landowner was prevented from building a house on his land, which is located close to El-Hawarta village. The Coptic landowner had filed a complaint to the police regarding the issue, but tensions escalated when he and others who were with him were shot at while building a fence around his property.
Meanwhile, in another village called Al-Badraman, nine people were arrested when clashes also broke out last week after suspicions arose regarding a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Coptic man. Such relationships have often led to sectarian tensions.
Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said tensions escalated when the homes of Christians were burned down by Muslims and one Muslim died under unknown circumstances.
Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif said the clashes originated when a 30 year-old woman stayed at the home of a Coptic family. He added that these clashes are not considered “sectarian”, but rather, they have to do with “the nature of Upper Egypt” where Minya is situated.
Churches and Christian communities across Egypt saw high levels of attacks following the dispersals of the protests supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Sectarian tensions had earlier flared in another Minya village, Delga, resulting in three of the five churches in the village being attacked. Security forces arrested dozens to restore order in the Upper Egypt village.
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II said on 26 October that a preliminary survey of damage inflicted by sectarian violence in recent months showed that an estimated cost of EGP 190m will be required for restorations.