In Cairo, clashes between Christians and military police have taken a deadly turn.
Nineteen people were killed in Cairo on Sunday when Christians, some carrying crosses and pictures of Jesus, clashed with military police, medical and security sources said, in the latest sectarian flare-up in a country in political turmoil.
Christians protesting against an attack on a church threw rocks and petrol bombs and set cars on fire, as thick smoke wafted through the streets in some of the most violent scenes since an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Hundreds fought with sticks on a Cairo bridge and protests later spread to Tahrir Square, the focal point of the February uprising, as Muslims joined the rally out of solidarity.
Smoke from tear gas swirled over the square as thousands of protesters chanted “The people demand the fall of the field marshal,” referring to the head of Egypt’s army council which now rules the country.
A Reuters witness said the army had moved in to contain the unrest, beating some protesters with batons.
State TV and sources said at least 150 people were injured on Sunday, without saying how many of them were protesters. It had earlier said three of those killed were soldiers.
Medical and security sources have told Reuters that at least 19 people were killed.
Tensions between Christians and Muslims have increased since the uprising. The latest violence comes just weeks before a parliamentary election on November 28, the first such vote since Mubarak was ousted.
The government has appealed for calm. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said he had contacted security and church authorities to contain the situation.
“The only beneficiary of these events and acts of violence are the enemies of the January revolution and the enemies of the Egyptian people, both Muslim and Christian,” he said on his Facebook page.
Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s roughly 80 million people, took to the streets after blaming Muslim radicals for partially demolishing a church in Aswan province last week. They also demanded the sacking of the province’s governor for failing to protect the building.
Cabinet spokesman Mohamed Hegazy told Reuters the cabinet would hold a special session on Monday to discuss the events.