Clashes between Muslims and Copts in Assiut yesterday left the situation in the Upper Egypt governorate flammable, hours ahead of New Year.
Chaos and sectarian violence erupted in several villages in Assiut after a Coptic student, Masoud Abdullah, reportedly posted blasphemous pictures insulting the Prophet Mohamed on his Facebook account.
Angry Muslims locked horns with Christians in the villages of Bahig and El-Adr, with both sides stoning each other.
Meanwhile, some Bahig residents rallied in front of Abdullah’s school in the village. Security forces interfered to protect to him inside the school, eventually managing cool down tensions.
In El-Adr, however, feelings were more heated. Hundreds embarked on a march heading to the student’s house with the intention of lynching him.
Security forces had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, Abdullah’s family left their home.
Later on, it was reported that some angry Muslims attacked the house, trying to set it on fire.
In nearby El-Salam Village, three houses owned by Copts were set ablaze. The arson caused other buildings to catch fire also.
Assiut’s head of security, General Mohamed Ibrahim, as well as Bayoumi Ismaili, the newly-elected parliamentarian from Al-Nour Party, both tried to calm tensions in El-Adr Village.
Mahmoud Ashmawi, another Al-Nour parliamentarian, said his party had formed popular committees to protect the Coptic homes in Assiut.
Upper Egypt has a long history of incidences of sectarian strife.