Egypt’s presidency appealed for calm on Saturday after religious insults sparked a gun battle in a poor town north of Cairo in which four Christians and a Muslim died.
Fighting flared on Friday night in Al-Khusus, in Qalyubia governorate, after a Muslim in his 50s objected to children drawing a swastika on a religious institute, a security source told AFP.
The man insulted Christians and the cross, and an argument broke out with a young Christian man who was passing by, which escalated into a gun battle with assault rifles between the Muslims and the Christians.
“Five people were killed in the clashes, including four Christians. In addition to this, six others were wounded, at least two of whom were suffering gunshot wounds,” a security official said.
The presidency denounced sectarian violence and appealed to “all citizens to respect the law and shun any acts that can affect the security and stability of the country.”
A priest in Al-Khusus, Suryal Yunan, said attackers torched “parts” of an Anglican church, the official MENA news agency reported.
Muslims also set fire to a Christian home and ransacked a pharmacy owned by a Copt, a police official said.
A number of angry Muslim residents tried to surround the town’s Mar Jirjis church, but the security presence in the area stopped them from doing so.
Both sides then lit tyres in the narrow streets where residents live in crowded slum housing.
“The authorities are in complete control of the town,” a security official said.
Christians form between six and 10 percent of Egypt’s population of nearly 83 million people.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians and Muslims have clashed on several occasions since the revolution that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Around 50 Christians and several Muslims have been killed.