Muslim mobs set two churches on fire overnight in Cairo during sectarian clashes that left 12 dead and more than 200 injured. Military authorities arrested 190 people, immediately sending them to military prosecutions and threatening the maximum penalty against anyone attacking houses of worship. It was the military's toughest response yet to a series of violent clashes between the two religious groups.

Mobs of ultraconservative Muslims attacked the St. Menas church in the Cairo slum of Imbaba late Saturday following rumours that a Christian woman married to a Muslim man had been abducted.

Local residents said a separate mob of youths armed with knives and machetes attacked the Virgin Mary church several blocks away with firebombs.

During Egypt's 18-day uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak several months ago, there was a rare spirit of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians. Each group protected the other during prayer sessions in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the revolution.

Ultraconservatives

But in the months that followed the toppling of Mubarak on Feb. 11, there has been a sharp rise in sectarian tensions, fuelled in part by newly active ultraconservative Muslim movement, known as the Salafis.

On Friday, a few hundred Salafis marched through Cairo celebrating al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and condemning the U.S. operation that killed him.

RELATED NEWS

Religious clashes in EgyptMay 9, 2011

More In: International | News