Father Bulous, a priest at the Mallawi church who managed to visit the three freed monks in hospital on Sunday, said: "They said they were tortured, tied up and beaten and humiliated.
 
"One monk was hit with the back of a rifle and had his leg broken."
 

Deir Abu Fana, in the province of Minya, has a high proportion of Coptic Christians and contains several monasteries particularly sacred to the community.

 

A similar incident took place in Minya in October, resulting in 20 people receiving injuries.

 

Deir Abu Fana clash

 

A Muslim resident of Deir Abu Fana was killed during Saturday's inter-communal clashes.

 
Two Coptic Christian workers at the monastery suffered bullet wounds and were admitted to hospital in a critical condition, while two monks suffered injuries.
 

Father Dumadius, who witnessed the attack, said that at least 60 men carrying weapons stormed the Abu Fana monastery on Saturday.

 

"They split into several groups. One group proceeded to destroy the wall. Others entered a chapel used by the monks and destroyed and burned property," he said.

 

Muslim residents of the area claim the agricultural land on which the monastery's wall is being built as theirs, and say it is damaging their crops.

 

Shops robbed

 

The developments in Deir Abu Fana came against a backdrop of attacks against Christian jewellers over the past week that prompted one Coptic member of Egypt's parliament to claim on Thursday that police were not adequately protecting the community.

 

Armed men stormed a jewelry shop in Cairo on Wednesday and killed the Coptic Christian owner and three of his assistants, but did not steal anything.

 

The suspected assailant was arrested on Sunday, but another Coptic-owned jewelry store was targeted the same day, this time in the port city of Alexandria.

 

No one was killed, but about $28,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.

 

Police claim the incidents are entirely criminal in nature and not sectarian.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies