Angry Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes outside Cairo on Wednesday, sparking clashes that wounded 16 people, a security official said, after a Muslim died of wounds from a fight with a Christian.
Police fired tear gas to prevent the mob setting fire to the church but the crowd returned and torched several homes in the village of Dahshur as well as three police cars, the official said.
Six villagers and 10 police were wounded in the violence.
It was the second assault on the village following last week’s fight between the Muslim and the Christian, a laundry worker whom he accused of singing his shirt while ironing it.
On Friday, Muslims set fire to several homes and traded fire bombs with villagers, leaving at least one person wounded.
The Muslim died of his injuries on Tuesday and was buried during the night.
Muslims have in the past burned the homes of Copts during sectarian clashes, with dozens of Christians killed in the past 18 months alone since president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in a popular uprising.
The Copts, who make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 82-million-strong population, were also the target of sectarian attack before Mubarak’s ouster in February last year.
Mubarak’s overthrow was followed by this year’s election of Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, who has pledged to respect the rights of Christians and says they will be represented in his government.
Muslim-majority Egypt has for decades been marked by deep sectarian tensions, with religious violence between Muslims and Christians often sparked by disputes over land or love affairs between members of the two communities.
In January 2011, a suicide bomber killed more than 20 Christians outside a church in the country’s second city Alexandria, amid accusations by Islamists that the Coptic Church had detained a woman who converted to Islam.
The United States warned on Monday that despite gestures by Egypt’s interim military leaders towards greater inclusiveness, sectarian tensions and violence had increased.
Washington’s 2011 International Religious Freedom Report expressed concern over “both the Egyptian government’s failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks.”