Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has condemned deadly clashes at the Cairo headquarters of the Coptic Christian pope as “an attack against myself”, ordering a quick probe into the violence, a statement said.
“I consider any attack on the cathedral an attack against myself,” Morsi said on Sunday in a statement published by the official MENA news agency.
The probe follows clashes after a funeral for Copts slain in sectarian violence.
At least two people were reported killed and MENA said 17 people had been injured in fighting in Sunday’s violence.
Public television showed riot police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
In some of the worst sectarian violence for months on Friday, four Christians and one Muslim were killed in El Khusus,
north of Cairo, when members of both communities started shooting at each other.
New clashes erupted on Sunday when hundreds of angry Copts who had attended a funeral service at St Mark’s Cathedral spilled out into the streets of Cairo, chanting “With our blood and soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross.”
After an emotional church service, where relatives of the dead wept, young Christians started hurling rocks at police officers, a witness said.
The protesters smashed six private cars and set two on fire, prompting an angry reaction from Muslims living in the neighbourhood, who threw stones at them, a witness said.
Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Muslims repressed under his rule.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that the situation “remained tense” outside the cathedral, with gunshots still being heard in the area as of late Sunday afternoon.
“From the beginning, the mood during the funeral marches was one of clear anger. The Christian community have been complaining for two years now, since the revolution, of increased physical attacks against them,” said Rageh.
“Their concern is now that Islamic groups have been empowered and have been acting more freely after the revolution, that little is being done to address the long-standing roots of sectarian tension.”
President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in June, has promised to protect the rights of Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million people.
Egypt’s Coptic Church issued a statement on Sunday night calling for calm and expressing sorrow for the clashes.
Christians have complained of attacks on churches by hardline Muslims, incidents that have sharpened long-standing Christian grievances about being sidelined in the workplace and in law.
The president’s office and top Muslim leaders were quick to condemn Friday’s clashes, which happened after Christian children scrawled on the wall of a Muslim religious institute, according to witnesses.
Still, many Christians at the funeral called for Morsi and his Islamist allies to go, some of them chanting “The blood of
Christians is not cheap, Morsi, you villain.”