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Dozens die in Egyptian sectarian riots

Dozens of "instigators of chaos" have been arrested after deadly clashes between angry Christians, Muslims and security forces that left 24 dead and at least 200 wounded in Egypt.

Flames lit up Cairo city centre, where massive clashes raged yesterday. At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. The rioting lasted late into the night, bringing out a deployment of more than 1,000 security forces and armoured vehicles to defend the state television building along the Nile, where the trouble began.

The clashes spread to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicentre of the protests that ousted Mubarak.

Last night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

After midnight, mobs roamed the streets, attacking cars they suspected had Christian passengers.

Christians, who make up about 10pc of Egypt's 80 million people, blame the country's ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak's ousting. As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of the uprising, the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about the show of force by ultraconservative Islamists.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, in a televised speech, said the violence threatened to throw Egypt's post-Mubarak transition off course.

"These events have taken us back several steps," he said.

hnews@herald.ie