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One killed, 5 wounded in Egypt church stabbings

Written by: Staff

CAIRO, Apr 14 (Reuters) A mentally ill Egyptian man killed a worshipper and wounded five others today in knife attacks at two Coptic Christian churches in the coastal city of Alexandria, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Security and police officials said earlier three Egyptians working together had killed one person and wounded three others in separate attacks on three churches and another man had been apprehended before attacking worshippers in a fourth church.

''(He) was apprehended as he tried to enter (a third church),'' the ministry said in the statement. ''The aforementioned is called Mahmoud Abdul Razik Salah Eddin Hussein,'' it added.

The ministry said Hussein had wounded three people in St.

George's Church and then wounded three others in Saints Church before being stopped trying to enter another church named after St. George.

''The attacks ... led to six being wounded, one of whom died from his wounds,'' the ministry said, adding that Hussein suffered from mental illness and the prosecutor was investigating the incident.

An Interior Ministry official said Hussein's mental illness was the cause of the attacks and there was no political motivation. The official added Hussein had insulted worshippers at the first church before later returning.

Copts account for up to 10 percent of Egypt's population of 73 million. They were the majority until several centuries after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century.

The governor of Alexandria told Egyptian state television by telephone that Hussein, a supermarket employee, carried out the attack holding two knives and walked from church to church.

Governor Abdul Salam Mahgoub said three of the people wounded in the attacks were in hospital but would leave later in the day.

A news broadcast showed three men with bandages around their faces lying in hospital beds and also showed groups of men in traditional clothes crowding around a building and one man sitting on the road crying.

Police officials said about 500 people gathered peacefully in and around Saints Church, where the 67-year-old worshipper died, chanting prayers and condemning the attack.

The Egyptian authorities have in the past blamed mental illness for attacks against European or Western tourists.

An Egyptian man stabbed and wounded two Hungarian tourists in Cairo in March 2005, saying he was exacting revenge for Western policies towards Iraqis and Palestinians. The prosecutor general ordered him to be placed in a psychiatric hospital.

Alexandria was the scene of violent protests in October over a church play demonstrators said was offensive to Islam. Three people died when the protesters clashed with police.

Relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt are generally peaceful but there are occasional outbreaks of sectarian violence, notably in 1999 when 22 people were killed in the southern village of Kosheh.

Reuthers CH BST2233

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