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Egypt mob burns Christian homes over 'cross-religion affair' rumour

Church says crowd of 300 stripped Christian woman humilated, homes burned after reports of affair between Christian man and Muslim woman
Coptic Christians represent about 10 percent of Egypt's population (AFP)

A mob of 300 Muslim men reportedly burned seven Christian homes in provincial Egypt after rumours spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman, according to the local Coptic church.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II called for restraint after the incident in Karam village in Minya province, the Coptic Church said in a statement.

The authorities have assured the pope that they will "chase down the perpetrators and bring them to justice", the church said.

A statement from the local church in Minya, released late on Wednesday, said the mother of the Christian man was publicly stripped of her clothes by members of the mob on 20 May.

Security officials told the AP news agency that the woman was beaten and insulted while being paraded through the village.

Translation: “This humiliation Copts suffer has been for a thousand years. Copts in upper Egypt especially, they live through burning houses and displasment as if it is a routine and they are all waiting their turn”

The Egyptian Independent news website said that a group of Christian residents responded by setting fire to Muslim property.

Police arrived nearly two hours after the attacks began and arrested six people, according to a statement by Minya's top cleric, Anba Makarios.

"No one did anything and the police took no pre-emptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks," he said in a television interview on Wednesday night. 

"We are not living in a jungle or a tribal society. It's incorrect for anyone to declare himself judge, police and ruler."

Makarios said the late arrival of the police gave the attackers "ample time" to do what they had set out to do. 

"It is a disgrace for honest men to remain silent while accepting, seeing or hearing this."

The governor of Minya, in the first official comments on the attack, said the Muslim Brotherhood were creating a stir about the events. “Any discussion about honour in Upper Egypt will be provocative, just like how the Brotherhood work towards making big things out of trivial things,” he was reported as saying in local media.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million people, have long complained of discrimination in the mostly Muslim nation.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, in office since seizing power in a widely supported 2013 coup, has sought to address some of their grievances, changing election laws to allow more Christians into the national legislature and easing restrictions on building new churches and renovating old ones.

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