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Officer kills Christian on train in Egypt

Associated Press / January 12, 2011

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CAIRO — An off-duty policeman boarded a train and opened fire yesterday, killing a 71-year-old Christian man and wounding five other Christians, mostly women, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, sparking new demonstrations in southern Egypt.

There are fears that the attack could ignite a new wave of Christian protests by a community still traumatized by a New Year’s suicide attack on a church that killed at least 21 worshipers as they were leaving Mass.

Soon after the attack, hundreds of angry Copts gathered outside the hospital where the wounded were being treated in the Egyptian province of Minya and pelted the police with stones.

No motive was immediately known for the shooting, which came less than two weeks after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, sparking three days of fierce riots by Christians.

The ministry statement identified the policeman as Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher, a 23-year-old Muslim, and said he boarded the Cairo-bound train at the town of Samalout in Minya Province and opened fire on the passengers with a handgun.

It was not immediately clear if he was aware his victims were all Christian; however Christian women, who made up four of the five wounded, stand out in the conservative south since they would probably not be wearing headscarves, as most Muslim women do.

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