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Egyptian police fire tear gas to quell crowds after Muslim girl quits town with Christian man

An Egyptian security official and a priest say police fired tear gas and clashed with a stone-throwing mob of Muslims who had surrounded a Coptic Church in anger over an inter-faith romance.

The Muslim protesters accuse the church of helping to secret away 21-year-old Rana el-Shazli, believed to have converted to Christianity before fleeing her small town with a Coptic Christian man to Turkey.

The alleged romance ignited sectarian tension in Wasta, a rural town in Beni Suef province, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Cairo. Clashes flared anew on Friday after weekly Muslim prayers.

For more than a month, Muslims have attacked churches over the incident and forced Christians to close their shops in the town.

Christians make up nearly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 90 million.