Coptic Christian homes in the southern province of Minya were attacked by Muslims protesting their use as places of worship and refuge, the region’s archdiocese said Saturday.
“Four Coptic homes were attacked Friday by residents from the village and other nearby areas,” said Bishop Makarios of Minya, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Cairo.
The archdiocese of Minya published a post on Facebook saying “extremists” had attacked the village of Demshaw Hashem because of the “existence of a church”, AFP reports.
It said Christian residents of the village use homes and halls for prayer in the province with the highest Coptic Christian population in the country.
“Extremists attacked Copts, stole quantities of jewelry and money, destroyed household appliances and set fire to property,” it said, outlining three people including a firefighter were injured.
“There have been reports for several days about the intention of extremists to carry out the attack,” it said.
AP reports Christians constitute 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population and sectarian violence occasionally erupts, mainly in rural communities in the south.
The Minya diocese said Copts there usually opt to use “a house, hall or simple room” to hold services as a temporary solution to avoid attacks on worshippers en route to churches in neighboring villages.
Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christians strongly supported general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood group member.
Many Islamists claimed that Christians conspired with the military against them.
No group claimed responsibility for the recent attack, which bore the hallmarks of Islamic State militants, who are spearheading an insurgency against local Christians.
IS has repeatedly targeted Egypt’s Christians in the past, killing more than 100 in a series of deadly bombings and shootings since December 2016. The latest deadly attack was last December, when a gunman opened fire outside a church in Cairo, killing nine people.
Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Officially about 10 percent of the 95 million population are Christian, although many believe the figure is significantly higher.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: email@example.com