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Egypt Detains 156 Christian Protestors After Church Skirmish

CAIRO (AP/The Blaze)– Egypt's prosecutor general leveled severe accusations Thursday against 156 Christians, including explosives possession and attempted murder, following clashes with police over the building of a church.

One person died and 68 others were injured when security forces halted construction on a church citing violations of building permits.

Angry Christians hurled stones while riot police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and stones near the church and later in clashes outside the governor's office.

The prosecutor general ordered a renewable 15-day-detention for those arrested, on accusations of sabotage, assault, possession of explosives and attempted murder of police.

Some 15 police officers were injured in the clashes. No one arrested or charged over the death of one protester, killed after being shot in the thigh according to forensic reports.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million. They complain frequently of discrimination, though they generally live in peace with the Muslim majority despite occasional flare-ups of violence, especially over limits on church building.

In his first comment after riots, Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III blamed the local authorities of using violence against the Christians.

"God has given authority to some people to use it for the help of those under their authority," he said in his weekly lecture on Wednesday attended by thousands of Christians including families of the protesters.

"Violence leads to violence," he said warning governors and local authorities against using force to deal with the Christian issue.

The construction had been ordered halted in this case because the building was not licensed to become a house of worship, a government statement said.

Spokesman of the ruling National Democratic Party Ali Eddin Helal said that local authorities took action against the church after they saw "a dome" rising over the building.

The Coptic community says authorities in Egypt are reluctant to approve permits to build churches, which they say they need to accommodate growing numbers of worshippers.

Human rights groups say attacks on Copts are on the rise, underscoring the government's failure to address chronic sectarian strains in a society where religious radicalism is gaining ground.

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