Clash Over Interfaith Romance Leaves 12 Dead in Cairo

Christian-Muslim tensions have sharply risen since the uprising

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An outbreak of violence between Christians and Muslims erupted in Cairo Saturday following rumors that Christians had abducted a woman married to a Muslim and held her in a church against her will. The clash left 12 dead, over 230 injured, and two churches in flames, the New York Times reports. It has been one of the worst scenes of violence n Egypt since the uprising.

The clash occurred in the low-income neighborhood of Imbaba, where conservative Muslims marched on a Coptic Christian church. The altercation began verbally, but exploded into violence when both sides exchanged gunfire, firebombs, and set another church on fire, Al-Jazeera reports.

Since the resignation of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, there has been a sharp rise in sectarian tensions, which has been attributed by Al-Jazeera to a newly active ultraconservative Muslim movement, known as the Salafis. Claims that Christian women who converted to Islam were kidnapped and held in churches have been going on for months, though in this case at least, the Coptic Church said that the story of the woman being abducted was fiction.

In March, Muslims and Christians fought in the town of Helwan near Cairo, where thirteen people were killed following another rumored interfaith romance, between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

In response to Saturday's bloodshed, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ordered on Sunday "the transfer of all those arrested in connection with [Saturday's] events, and they number 190, to the Supreme Military Court, as a deterrent to all those who think of toying with the potential of this nation".

Nonetheless, the events have raised question regarding the capability of the country's military leaders to deal with religious strife. Christians have complained about unfair treatment, and the situation in Egypt remains tense, with several Christians huddling inside churches to protect the structures. Several thousand Copts gathered in front of Egyptian state television, demanding the resignation of the country's military ruler.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.