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Ten arrested over sectarian strife in Qena, Upper Egypt

Security forces arrest 10 in Al-Marashda, Qena, after accusations against Coptic shop owner turn sectarian Friday

Ahram Online, Saturday 19 Jan 2013
 Qena
Qena governorate (Photo: Google Maps )
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At least 10 residents of the village of Al-Marashda in Qena in Upper Egypt were arrested by police late Friday for allegedly stoking sectarian strife in the village since Friday dawn.

Problems erupted after a 45-year-old Coptic shop owner was accused by residents of Al-Marashda of sexually harassing a six-year-old Muslim girl. As a result, the Coptic man's shop was torched by angry residents who also attacked three surrounding shops.

Following Friday prayers clashes erupted between security forces and Muslim protesters who were trying to storm Al-Marashda church.

The accused man is currently detained for four days pending investigations after he was handed in to the authorities by priests of Al-Marshada church who feared he might be killed.

To counter the strife, Sheikh Ahmed Raslan, an imam of one of the village's mosques, gathered families of Al-Marashda Friday night to find a solution and put an end to the violence.

Raslan told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the meeting left the families convinced to leave the matter to the judiciary after agreeing that once the Coptic shop owner is released he will be expelled from the village forever.

Also, following the meeting, a number of people have volunteered to take to the streets of Al-Marashda to raise awareness on the issues at stake among residents and to put an end to the sectarian strife.

A youth committee was also formed to protect the shops of Copts from further potential attacks.

Member of the Shura Council on behalf of Qena and member of the Freedom and Justice Party, Mohamed Abdel-Zaher, accused "infiltrators" of "trying to use the current sectarian accident to steal shops and blackmail citizens."

Abdel-Zaher added to Al-Ahram that the Coptic shop owner is known for his bad reputation, calling on all sides involved to leave the matter to the judiciary given that the man has been already arrested by the police.

The head of the Centre for Justice and Development in Qena, Nadi Atef, called for an end to the siege of the village by security forces as a result of the foregoing violence.

Atef pointed out that it was Copts who handed in the accused to the police, and that the matter should be left now to the judiciary.

Al-Marashada church, which locked its doors Friday in fear of attack, abstained from celebrating the Epiphany, a marker on the Coptic calendar, which was to take place Saturday.

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