Clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in northern Egypt

Clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians Saturday in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria saw 20 people injured and several cars set ablaze before calm was restored to the neighborhood that witnessed the slaying of a man as he left mass on Friday.

Saturday's disturbances erupted when hundreds of Copts were taking the coffin of slain Copt Nushi Atta Girgis, 78 to be buried. Girgis was stabbed along with two other men as they left Saints Church in Sidi Bishr.

Knife attacks at two other churches in Alexandria Friday left up to 16 wounded.

Police said 20 people Muslims and Christians were wounded, four cars set ablaze

and that security used tear gas to disperse Saturday's disturbance. No one was arrested.

But security maintained a highly visible presence in Sidi Bishr Saturday after the clashes ended as tensions continued to run high at the end of the second day of upheaval.

Earlier in the day, about 3,000 people gathered Saturday at Saints Church to mourn Girgis and church leaders blasted the government for its failure to protect Egypt's Christian minority.

A statement by the church leaders in Alexandria denounced the attack and blamed the government for not doing enough to protect the churches. It also accused the Interior Ministry of fabricating reports that only one mentally disturbed man was behind the three attacks.

Outside the church, mourners shouted anti-government slogans and heaped insults on police who were deployed in large numbers around the square.

The church attacks came on what was Good Friday for many of the world's Christians. But the Copts and other Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter a week later.

Police and Coptic sources had differing accounts of what sparked Saturday's clashes.

Police said fights broke out when several Copts in the funeral procession attacked Muslim passers-by.

A Coptic doctor at the nearby St. Mark's hospital, who was not at the scene of the clashes, said he was told that Muslim passers-by were angered by the slogans protesters shouted.

"There was sort of a clash, and some people were injured," Dr. Girgis Fawzi said. "We received one young Christian with minor injuries. He was treated and left the hospital."

An official at al-Meery Hospital in Alexandria said that the facility had received five people with minor injuries after the clashes.

"Most of them were people stabbed by knives," the hospital official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to deal with the media.

Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt's 73 million people and generally live in peace with the Muslim majority, though occasional sectarian clashes do occur, reports AP.

O.Ch.