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Sectarian battles kill 5 in Egypt

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Protesters navigate through a street of objects set on fire by protesters during clashes with police in front of the High Court in Cairo on Saturday, April 6. Egyptian police fired tear gas to prevent opponents of President Mohamed Morsy storming the court and the prosecutor-general's office in central Cairo on Saturday, witnesses said.

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By The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, April 6, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

CAIRO — At least five people were killed on Saturday in clashes between Muslims and Christians, raising new questions over whether President Mohamed Morsy's Islamist-led government can calm sectarian tensions amid Egypt's broader political unrest.

Violence between Muslims and Coptic Christians during the past year has been a troubling subplot, especially in the provinces, to the nation's post-revolutionary political division and faltering economy. There were conflicting accounts over what ignited the latest fighting in Khousous, an impoverished town north of Cairo.

The state news agency MENA reported that Muslims were angry over swastikas drawn by Christian youths on the wall of an Islamic institute. Other media reported that the clashes stemmed from a dispute between Christian and Muslim families.

Muslims set a church on fire, and both sides began shooting at each other.

Officials said five people were killed. The Al Ahram news website quoted a priest as saying at least eight people had died, including four Christians.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 84 million. Despite underlying suspicions and occasional violence, including the 2011 bombing of a church that killed at least 24 worshippers, Copts and Muslims have coexisted for centuries.

But Christians are dismayed over the political rise of Islamists after the uprising that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

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