In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 photo, towers of churches are silhouetted against the sun in the village of El-Aziyah near the city of Assiut, southern Egypt. After a campaign of intimidation by Islamists, most Christians in this southern Egyptian province were too afraid to participate in last week�s referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution they desperately oppose, residents say. Some of the few who dared try to reach polls were pelted by stones. The disenfranchising hikes Christians� worries over their future under Egypt�s empowered Islamists, but some young members of the community are starting to push back.(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
LUXOR, Egypt (AP) — Police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Muslim protesters outside a church in southern Egypt. They were demanding an investigation into allegations a Christian man sexually assaulted a 6-year-old girl.
Residents in the city of Qena say four stores owned by Coptic Christians were torched overnight after villagers accused one of the store owners of molesting the young girl.
The clashes took place in the village of Marashda in Qena.
Residents say protesters threw stones at the local church on Friday, and police fired tear gas to scatter the crowd.
Qena security director Gen. Salah Mazid was quoted in state media saying that police are investigating the accusations against the merchant.
Flare-ups of violence between Egypt's Christian minority and Muslims have increased in the past two years.
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