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Egypt Arrests 42 Muslims, Christians Following Sectarian Riots

Egyptian authorities have arrested 42 people in connection with sectarian riots by Muslims and Christians in southern Egypt.

Egypt's state-run MENA news agency quotes the police chief of Qena province as saying his forces have detained 28 Coptic Christians and 14 Muslims since Friday's unrest.

MENA says arsonists burned down 11 shops and eight houses owned by members of the minority Christian sect Friday in the village of Bahjora. Christians accuse Muslim rioters of setting the fires.

A day earlier, Christian residents of a nearby town took to the streets to protest against a shooting attack by suspected Muslim gunmen that killed six Christian worshippers and a Muslim policeman. Egyptian police used tear gas to disperse the Christian rioters.

Several gunmen in a moving vehicle shot and killed the six worshippers Wednesday as they left a Christmas Eve mass observed Wednesday in accordance with the Coptic calendar.

Egyptian police Friday detained three Muslim men suspected of involvement in the drive-by shooting. The three have prior criminal records.

Officials say the attack was in apparent retaliation for an alleged rape of a Muslim girl by a Coptic man in a nearby village last November. Muslim residents of Nag Hamadi burned and looted Christian properties for several days in November following reports of the alleged rape.

Coptic Christians are adherents of an Egyptian sect of Christianity that observes Christmas Day on January 7. Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population, the majority of which is Muslim.

Sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians occasionally erupts in southern Egypt due to family and land disputes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.