Egyptian Christian Burned Alive; Father Murdered Also

A young Christian man was suddenly set on fire by a Muslim man in Egypt after a rumor circulated that the Christian man had a relationship with the Muslim man's sister.

Yasser Ahmed Qasim approached 25-year-old Sabri Shihata and poured gasoline on the Coptic Christian and then set him on fire, reported the Voice of the Copts on Friday. The young Copt tried to put out the fire by throwing himself into a nearby canal, but the burns were too severe and he later died.

His 60-year-old father, Sabri Shihata, later arrived at a village rally where a group of Muslims stabbed him to death. One stab reportedly entered his back and came out of his abdomen below the rib cage, according to Voice of the Copts. The elder Shihata was taken to the hospital but nevertheless died from the attacks.

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The Muslim group also attacked the Coptic man's younger brother, 22-year-old Rami Sabri Shihata, causing a deep injury to his head.

Local police have arrested those involved in the attack, including Yasser Ahmed Kassem, as well as victim Sabri Shihata, who is being held in custody at Dmas Hospital, located in the northern province of Qalubiya, north of Cairo. The perpetrators are charged with deliberate homicide.

Security forces have also surrounded the victims' house and extra security has been deployed throughout the village of 60,000 people.

A media blackout has been put in place as the prosecution and the State Security Services continue investigation.

In Egypt recently, sectarian violence has been on the rise as Christian-Muslim relations have been strained by conversions to Christianity and government opposition to recognizing the conversions.

Furthermore, changes in living arrangements have also contributed to increased tension between the two groups. Previously, Christians and Muslims used to live peacefully in mixed communities, but recently the two groups have tended to live separately only among their own religious communities and there have been less interaction between the two groups.

Egypt has the largest Christian population in the Middle East with an estimated 10 million Copts in Egypt, making up about 10 percent of the country's population.

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