Cairo: Egyptian police arrested 42 people for allegedly indulging in arson and sectarian violence as communal clashes continued in the Nagaa Hammadi town.
"We have arrested 28 Coptic Christians and 14 Muslims, considered as troublemakers, from Bahgura village after Friday`s incident when eleven ships and eight houses owned by Copts were burnt in the village," provincial police chief Mahmud Gohar said.
Authorities did not differentiate between majority and minority communities, he said yesterday.
Tensions began after a Muslim policeman was killed in a shooting in Nagaa Hammadi on Coptic Christmas Eve, considered the deadliest since 2000 when 20 Copts were killed.
On Friday, unidentified assailants set afire Christian-owned property in Bahgura.
"Three Muslims were arrested yesterday and have been charged with premeditated murder of Coptic Christians emerging from Christmas mass in Nagaa Hammadi. They have previous run-ins with police," Gohar said.
Copts comprise 10 percent of the Muslim dominated country and allege facing discrimination in job opportunities and other areas.
Religious clashes occur in south Egypt which is of late moving towards the capital and coastal cities in the north.
Security analysts said regional powers, mainly Iran, may have a hand in Friday`s clash to distract attention from the events at Egypt`s eastern borders.
"The violence against Christians in certain countries has caused indignation among many people, among other reasons because it has manifested itself during the holiest days of the Christian tradition," Pope Benedict XVI had said condemning the shooting in Nagaa Hammadi.