Violence erupted in the Egyptian capital when Christian protesters demanding drastic measures to heal religious tension clashed with unidentified men, leaving 78 people injured, officials said today.
The clashes erupted yesterday night, when dozens of men from poor neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the state television building attacked a Christian sit-in with stones, Molotov cocktails and live ammunition, witnesses said.
The Christian protesters have been holding their sit-in outside the building for nearly a week following deadly Christian-Muslim clashes that left a church burned and 15 people dead.
The clashes have left 78 people injured, the Egyptian health ministry said. Earlier today, state television reported that two people had died as a result of the fighting, but the health ministry later said that none had been killed.
The head of the Egyptian Coptic church has called on Christians to stop their week-long protest after fresh clashes. Pope Shenuda III said in a statement, read by his secretary on state TV, that the recent sectarian violence is harming the reputation of Egypt. Witnesses said more than 100 people rushed into the sit-in area, lobbing rocks and fire bombs from an overpass and charging toward the few hundred protesters sleeping in the area.
Vehicles were set on fire and fires burned in the middle of the street. Police and army troops fired in the air to disperse the crowd. At least 10 cars were set ablaze and 50 people were arrested, al Jazeera quoted interior ministry sources as saying. A protest organiser told state TV the motorists had provoked the fight after refusing to be searched before entering the protest area, then provoking the protesters.