Christian-Muslim violence that erupted north of Cairo killed five people and left six other people wounded, Egyptian sources said on Saturday.
“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,” an official source told AFP.
Conflicting accounts emerged of how the violence began.
One source told AFP that the clashes started on Friday night in Al-Khusus, a poor area in Qalyubia governorate, after a man in his 50s objected to Christian children drawing a swastika on a Muslim religious institute.
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 live rounds and automatic weapons between the Muslims and the Christians.
But other officials said the clashes started when young Muslims drew upside down crosses on the Islamic institute. That led Christian onlookers to quarrel with Muslims nearby and soon residents wielding guns began firing on one another.
As many as seven people may have been killed, said Tony Sabri, an activist from the Coptic Maspero Youth Movement, told AFP by phone from the Al-Mataraya Hospital, near to where the clashes took place.
State news agency MENA had earlier put the death toll at four.
A number of angry Muslim residents tried to surround the town’s Mary Jirjis church, but the security presence in the area stopped them from doing so.
Both sides then lit tires in the narrow streets where residents live in crowded slum housing.
Christians form between six and 10 percent of Egypt’s population of nearly 83 million people.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)