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DATE=1/3/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=EGYPT / RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-257720 BYLINE=RICHARD ENGEL DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: ///EDS: watch CN wire for any updates on number of dead or for further developments/// INTRO: At least ten people are dead after three days of clashes between Muslims and Christians in Southern Egypt. Richard Engel reports from Cairo that police have cut off the area in an effort to clam the situation. TEXT: Violence broke out Wednesday after a dispute between a Christian and Muslim businessman that led to a gun battle involving members of their families. A Coptic Christian man and his daughter were killed during the shoot out in the village of al-Kosheh, about 400 kilometers south of Cairo. Analysts say this is often how violent incidents begin in Southern Egypt where family honor is paramount and guns are widespread. The tension quickly spread to other nearby towns in Southern Egypt where mistrust between local Copts and Muslims can run high. On Friday, scuffles and shootings broke out again, this time in the town of Dar es-Salam only a few kilometers from al-Kosheh. Security forces there arrested five Coptic Christians in efforts to contain the situation. But the detentions angered Coptic villagers who rioted and damaged some 50 stores owned by Muslims in the farming village. The Coptic Bishop in the region, Bishop Wissa, said 3 thousand Muslims responded Sunday by attacking Christians after they had attended Church services. Witnesses in al-Kosheh said scores of Christian-owned shops and offices were destroyed by the Muslim villagers. They said security forces had opened fire in an effort to disperse the protesters, some of whom fired back. These towns in Southern Egypt have been centers of violence and tension between Muslims and Christians in the past. In 1998, human rights groups accused police in al Kosheh of rounding up and mistreating hundreds of Copts during a murder investigation. The Coptic community was further angered at the time when police arrested Bishop Wissa, accusing him with stirring sectarian violence. Egypt strongly denies charges that it discriminates against the six million Coptic Christians who live among the nation's sixty million Muslims. However, Egyptian Coptic groups complain that some Egyptian laws are biased in favor of the nation's Muslim majority. And they point to violence in Southern Egypt as evidence that tensions between the two communities do exist and need to be addressed by the government in Cairo, which has long preferred to deny that there is any problem. (SIGNED) NEB/RHE/GE 03-Jan-2000 06:53 AM EDT (03-Jan-2000 1153 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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