At least five people were killed and several were wounded in clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians outside Cairo Saturday.
As the story developed, there were conflicting reports about the death toll and number of injured. Egypt’s official state news agency, MENA, originally put the number of killed at four. Reuters then reported that at least five were killed and eight were wounded, and Israel Radio put the number of dead at eight and estimated that 20 people, most of them Christians, were wounded.
The violence erupted late Friday in Khosoos a town on the outskirts of Cairo, and lasted through Saturday. The fight broke out when a group of Christian children drew upside down crosses on a wall of an Islamic religious institution, according to Egyptian sources. Members of both groups began arguing and then shot at each other. A church in the town was damaged by a fire that broke out in its vicinity, causing the Christian community leaders to call on the Egyptian army to protect them from danger.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of the country’s overall population of 83 million people. Violent clashes between Muslims and Copts have often flared in the past. The community also worried that the ascent of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi to president would mean more leeway for hardline Islamists to marginalize it.