By Hamza Hendawi /AP
CAIRO: Muslim-Christian clashes in the Egyptian capital Cairo have killed 11 people and wounded more than 90, security and hospital officials said on Wednesday.
The clashes broke out Tuesday night when a Muslim mob attacked thousands of Christians protesting against the burning of a Helwan church last week.
The officials said Wednesday that the killed were six Christians and five Muslims, all died from gunshot wounds. They said 94 people were wounded — 73 Muslims and 21 Christians.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The clashes added to a sense of ongoing chaos in Egypt after the momentous 18-day democracy uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. A security vacuum was created when police pulled out from Cairo and several other cities three days into the uprising.
The police have yet to fully take back the streets, something that has left space for a wave of violent crime and lawlessness in some parts of the nation.
The Christian protesters on Tuesday blocked a vital highway, burning tires and pelting cars with rocks. An angry crowd of Muslims set upon the Christians and the two sides fought pitched battles for about four hours.
Mubarak handed power to the military when he stepped down, but the military does not have enough troops to police every street in Cairo, a sprawling city of some 18 million people that, at the best of times, is chaotic.
Even before the uprising unleashed a torrent of discontent, tensions had been growing between Christians and Muslims in this country of 80 million.
On New Year’s Day, a suicide bombing outside a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria killed 21 people, setting off days of protests. Barely a week later, an off-duty policeman boarded a train and shot dead a 71-year-old Christian man and wounding his wife and four others.
Egypt’s ruling generals have pledged last week to rebuild the torched church and the country’s new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, has met the protesters outside the TV building in downtown Cairo to reassure them that his interim government would not discriminate against them.
But the Christians were not appeased, saying they wouldn’t leave until the construction work to rebuild the burnt church actually began and the culprits were arrested and charged. At least 2,000 of them protested on the highway on Tuesday night and a separate crowd of several hundred has been camping out outside the TV building for days to voice their anger at what they perceive to be official discrimination against them.