• EGYPT \ Feb 11, 2002
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    Church bells lead to Egypt clashes
Church bells lead to Egypt clashes Four people, including a policeman, have been injured in a village in southern Egypt following clashes between Christians and Muslims that broke out at the inauguration of a church.

Police reportedly cordoned off the village, near the town of Minya, after making several arrests.

The trouble is reported to have broken out after church bells rang out - in defiance of warnings by Muslims that they should remain silent.

Two years ago 23 people were killed in sectarian clashes

Police sources said local Muslims tried to burn down the church and five houses of Coptic Christians living nearby.

A crowd of about 100 from the two communities then pelted each other with stones and some fired hunting rifles.

The four injured - three Muslims and one Copt - were reported to have been slightly hurt by shotgun pellets.

Rise in Islamic fervour

Sectarian tensions are known to flare up occasionally over the building of new churches.

Tension in Upper Egypt has been fuelled by the rise of Islamic militancy over the last 20 years.

There have been occasional flare-ups in the region, which is the most socially and economically deprived in the country.

Two years ago 23 Copts were killed in another Upper Egyptian village after a market dispute escalated into sectarian clashes.

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt's 70 million population.

The Egpytian Government says it is committed to equality between the two communities, but some Copts have argued that it needs to take firmer steps to prevent discrimination.