Egyptian security officials reported a clash between Muslims and Christians early Saturday which left five men, four Christians and a Muslim, dead in a suburb of the city of Shubra el-Kheima, north of Cairo.
According to Reuters, the violence broke out on Friday after a group of Christian children were drawing what looked like a swastika on the wall of a Muslim religious institute.
CNN reports that the violence was sparked after Christians drew crosses on the walls of a Muslim school which angered members of the Muslim community.
On the other hand, according the New York Times, the police reported that clashes started when young Muslims drew inflammatory symbols on an Islamic institute and local mosque. This led to a quarrel between nearby Christians and Muslims to the point that residents were wielding guns at each other.
“I saw the kids drawing on the wall after afternoon prayers, so I grabbed them and told them to remove what they’d just written,” said Mahmoud Mahmoud al-Alfi, a Muslim resident.
Subsequently, Reuters reported that another man arrived and started to beat the children.The situation escalated when someone drew a gun and fired into the air, killing one boy with a stray bullet.
According to CNN, both the perpetrators and other Christians took shelter in a nearby church as angry members of the Muslim community tried to storm the building. Fortunately, security forces arrived in time to prevent them.
State news agency MENA reported that unidentified assailants set fire to parts of the local church during the clashes.
The New York Times also reported the accounts of different residents which included statements that the police arrived hours after the clashes. Other accounts reported that the violence was set off by feuding families and another stated that the fight began after a woman was verbally harassed in the street.
NBC reports that the town was quiet Saturday with a heavy security presence following the detention of 15 people.
According to the Jerusalem Post, incidents of Christian-Muslim violence have increased since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Current Egyptian President has promised to protect the rights of Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people.
In response to the incident, the President’s office stated that “The presidency … totally rejects any attempt against the unity and cohesiveness of Egyptian society and will decisively confront any attempt to spark sectarian strife among Egyptian people, Muslim and Christian.”
In addition, Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood political party, said on his Facebook website that “The sectarian riots which happened in El Khusus are unacceptable and grave; there are some who want to set Egypt ablaze and create crises.”
MENA also reported that Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, of Egypt’s leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, sought to “preserve the national character which characterizes the Egyptian people, Muslims and Christians.”
Reuters reports that the last bloodiest conflict was in October 2011 when 25 people — most of them Coptic Christian demonstrators — were killed in clashes with troops in Cairo.