Police said that the violence erupted in the village of Al-Ayat, around 24 km south of the capital.

It reportedly followed Muslim anger over the construction of a community centre by the local Christian minority.

Muslim residents accused the Christians of seeking to turn the centre into a church.

Five Muslims and three Christians were wounded in the fighting, but none were believed to be in a serious condition.

Egypt's Christians, who account for around a 10th of the population, need authorisations to build churches, while the construction of mosques is virtually unrestricted.

Sectarian tensions have been on the rise in recent months.

On Saturday witnesses said clashes also broke out in a village near the southern Egyptian town of Bani Mazar after Muslims accused Christians of burning copies of the Quran, Islam's holy book.

Church controversy

One Christian was killed and several other people wounded in violence that broke out in the southern Nile city of Luxor when Muslims protested that Christians were building a church without authorisation.

Incidents also took place late last year in the Nile Delta and in Alexandria in the north of the country.

Following the Islamist opposition's strong showing in the November-December parliamentary polls, the government announced measures to ease restrictions on church-building.

The move was interpreted as an attempt to allay Christian fears of a further Islamisation of society but the Christian community has since complained that the new decree was not being implemented.