Muslims Attack Christians in Egypt on Rumor of Sexual Assault
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Thousands of Muslims from Marashda and surrounding villages attacked eight Coptic homes and businesses, including five pharmacies, which were looted and torched. Coptic-owned cars were also torched. The attack on the Christians was caused by rumor that a 55-year-old Coptic man, Nader Masoud, sexually assaulted a 6-year-old Muslim girl.

The Attacks on the village, which has a majority Christian population, started yesterday after 10 PM, when several Coptic businesses were torched, and Church of Abu Fam had its cross demolished and its glass smashed.

Anba Kyrollos, Bishop of Nag Hammadi, said that a medical check of the Muslim girl proved her "virginity," but the attacks "took place after the Muslims knew of the medical verdict and the sexual assault was only a rumor."

The Bishop said Nader Masoud has surrendered to the police for his own safety.

Clashes broke out for the second time today in Marashda between security forces and the Muslim protesters, after the police arrested 10 Muslims who tried to storm the church this morning and who torched a police car.

A mob of over 2000 Muslims had gathered this afternoon on the village bridge to prevent the police from transporting those Muslims who arrested. The mob prevented police vehicles from passing through and tried to break into the police cars to get the suspects out of the vehicles. This led security forces to call for reinforcement troops from the Central Security Directorate in Qena which fired teargas on the protesters.

According the newspaper Aldostor-Assly, the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafists groups denied any involvement in the Marshada events, stressing that they have formed human shields to protect the village church

A relative calm now prevails in the village after a friendly meeting took place at the church; the meeting was attended by the church pastor, security officials, the Muslim girl's family and Muslim elders. It was decided that the case will be left for the court to resolve.

Some Muslims are demonstrating in front of the police station where the accused Coptic man is being held.

Copts are staying in their homes for fear of attacks. The Coptic Church cancelled tonight's evening service celebrating the feast of Epiphany.

Security forces are still present in the village.

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