Around 20 people were hurt, including two policemen, in clashes between African Christians and Egyptian Muslims after a car hit a Christian outside a church late Monday, witnesses and security sources said.
The man hit by the car was given first aid on the scene while Sudanese and other Africans attacked a bus, which they mistakenly believed was responsible. They dragged the Muslim driver of the bus inside the church and proceeded to beat him up, witnesses said.
A crowd of Egyptian Muslims forced their way into the church, a meeting place for hundreds of African Christians living in Cairo, and started throwing bricks, which smashed church windows, witnesses said.
The Muslims also set fire to a car belonging to the church of the Holy Heart in the Abbassaya district of downtown Cairo.
Hundreds of riot police eventually quelled the violence, which began around 10 p.m. (1900 GMT), while firefighters doused the car which had been set ablaze.
The police also rescued the battered driver from the Christian mob and took him to a local hospital, witnesses said.
Security sources said 15 Christians were injured inside and outside the church, and three Muslims were hurt, including the driver, as well as two police officers who tried to stop the violence.
The Christian who was hit by the car was reported to be in good condition inside the church where he was treated for his injuries, while some 300 Africans remained with him, afraid to venture outside, witnesses said.
Police blocked the road around the church to prevent further clashes.
It was not immediately clear whether any arrests were made.
Last Thursday, three Muslims were arrested in a village just south of greater Cairo for allegedly inciting a mob that set fire to an Egyptian Christian's home because they believed he was turning it into a church, police said.
Nobody was reported hurt in that incident.
Egypt experienced its worst sectarian violence in at least 20 years when 22 people died, almost all of them Coptic Christians, in clashes that began in the New Year in the southern town of Kosheh.
The violence raised fears among some analysts that religious intolerance was growing in the country.
However, violence over traffic accidents is also on the rise.
At least three riots have erupted in Cairo and elsewhere between residents and security forces following fatal traffic accidents this year.
No religious slogans were heard from either the Christian or the Muslim side during Monday's violence - CAIRO (AFP)
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