Egypt security forces arrest suspect in killing of Shia leader

Ahram Online, Sunday 20 Oct 2013

Another accused in the brutal killing of Hassan Shehata and three other members of the Shia community last June is arrested

Shia leader
Murdered Egyptian Shia cleric Hassan Shehata

One of the suspects accused of killing Shia leader Hassan Shehata and three other members of the Shia community was arrested on Sunday reported Ahram's Arabic website.

Last June, an angry mob led by Salafist sheikhs torched and attacked Shia residences in the small village of Zawyat Abu Musalam in Giza governorate, killing four citizens, including a prominent Shia figure.

Shehata was visiting one of the families in the village when the attack happened.

Video footage circulated online showing one of the victims being beaten and dragged through the streets.

Eyewitness accounts say several members of the Shia community were stabbed multiple times in a brutal form of public lynching.

Five others have already been arrested for their alleged involvement in the mob attack earlier in June.

Inflammatory anti-Shia rhetoric by some hardline Islamist clerics had been on the rise shortly before the mob attack.

Former Salafist parliamentarians had frequently expressed misgivings over ousted president Mohamed Morsi's plans to restore diplomatic ties with Shia-majority Iran and to encourage Iranian tourists to visit Egypt. One MP went as far as branding Shias "more dangerous than naked women" and a threat to national security.

As Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood announced a call for jihad in Syria at a solidarity conference in June 2013, an Islamist backer of the president denounced Shia Muslims as "unclean."

Dogmatic divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims include historical differences over the status of Prophet Mohamed’s companions.

There is no official record of the number of Shia Muslims in Egypt, but analysts believe the number of believers to be between 500,000 and one million.

Much like estimates of the size of the Coptic-Christian community in Egypt, the number of Shia Egyptians remains a point of contention. Some Shia activists claim the number exceeds eight million, whilst Salafist groups say there are only a few thousand.

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