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Sectarian riots in Egypt persist for third day

An injured Egyptian Coptic protester runs to an ambulance outside the St. Maximus Church in Alexandria, Egypt, on Sunday.
An injured Egyptian Coptic protester runs to an ambulance outside the St. Maximus Church in Alexandria, Egypt, on Sunday.Ben Curtis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police fired live ammunition into the air and lobbed tear gas into rioting crowds of Christians and Muslims on Sunday in a third day of sectarian violence in Egypt’s second-largest city.

One Muslim man reportedly died Sunday of his wounds. Police said 40 people had been wounded in clashes and 80 had been arrested over the weekend.

The riots were touched off Friday by knife attacks at three Coptic Christian churches, which killed one man and wounded up to 16 other people. A mentally ill man is being held in the stabbings.

Some 2,000 police fought back Sunday against 200 Coptic Christians who fled into St. Maximus Church in Alexandria, after the mob began hurling stones and bottles. Other demonstrators tossed Molotov cocktails from the balconies of nearby buildings.

Police were seen beating a young Coptic boy, who was among the crowd that fled. Later, a huge mob of what appeared to be Muslim protesters charged the police cordon from the other side.

Security forces also used tear gas Saturday to quash violence that erupted among several hundred Coptic Christians and Muslims at a funeral procession for a 78-year-old man killed Friday outside the Saints Church in the Sidi Bishr district.

Sporadic scuffles continued after nightfall Sunday.

Mustafa Mohammed Mustafa, a lawmaker, said a 24-year-old Muslim died Sunday after being beaten by Christians a day earlier.

Suspect under observation
A judge in Alexandria on Sunday ordered the alleged perpetrator of Friday’s attacks on the three churches, Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq, to be kept under observation at a mental hospital. Abdel-Raziq had earlier been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Coptic Christians are 10 percent of Egypt’s 73 million population and generally live in peace with the country’s Muslim majority. But occasional sectarian clashes have broken out. Most recently, Muslim militants attacked churches in Alexandria protesting the distribution of a DVD that they deemed offensive to Islam. Four people were killed in those riots.

Christians also complain that they suffer job discrimination, particularly in the high ranks of the civil service system.

More troops to Alexandria
Officials said more security forces had been sent to Alexandria to maintain calm, but residents were despondent about their damaged homes and shops.

“We were afraid so we locked ourselves inside our houses, but they broke in and destroyed everything,” Sami Aziz, a Muslim who said about eight Copts who stormed his home Saturday night.

Ehab Sami, a Copt, said his electronics shop opposite St. Maximus was looted.

“It was the Muslims, and the police were collaborating with them. I asked the police to help me, but they didn’t lift a finger,” Sami said.