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Washington Post

CAIRO - A day after dozens were seriously injured in the latest spate of fighting between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Cairo, thousands of Christians on Sunday defied the request of the community's leader to end a sit-in.

Witnesses said the clashes began late Saturday after snipers from across the Nile River opened fire on Christians who have been camped outside the main state TV building for nearly a week to demand better protection from the government.

The gunfire and subsequent violence in a normally safe area of downtown Cairo underscored the volatility and intensity of long-subdued conflicts in Egyptian society that were unleashed by an uprising that ousted the ruling party here in February.

The clashes came a week after a Muslim mob set fire to a Coptic Christian church in a Cairo neighborhood, setting off hourslong riots that left at least 12 dead and emotions raw.

Tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, who make up roughly 10 percent of the country's population, date back decades. But the turmoil was kept largely under wraps by the police state that ceased to be when President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down.