CAIRO (AP) — Sunni Muslim villagers killed four Shiite men on Sunday, accusing them of trying to spread their version of Islam, according to Egyptian security officials.
The four were beaten to death in Giza province, near the capital, Cairo, in one of the most serious sectarian incidents in Egypt in recent months.
The Health Ministry confirmed the death toll, adding that scores of Shiites were seriously injured in the attack.
About 3,000 angry villagers, including ultraconservative Salafis, surrounded the house of Shiite leader Hassan Shehata, threatening to set it on fire if 34 Shiites inside did not leave the village before the end of the day, according to the officials. When they refused, villagers attacked them, dragged them along the ground, and partially burned the house, the officials said.
The Shiites were performing religious rituals outside the house when they were attacked, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Sectarian violence has increased over the past two years, but usually the targets of Muslim extremists have been Christians, not Shiites, who have only a small presence in overwhelmingly Sunni Egypt. Christians make up about 10 percent of the population.
Sunday’s attack came several days after a number of Salafis insulted Shiites during a rally attended by Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who listened silently while remaining impassive.
A Salafi preacher, Mohammed Hassan, called on Morsi “not to open the doors of Egypt” to Shiites, saying that “they never entered a place without corrupting it.”
Salafis consider Shiite as heretics.