Egyptian security and church officials say hundreds of Coptic Christians visiting a southern monastery have protested after coming under attack by unidentified assailants who stole their money and personal belongings and beat them.

Officials say at least seven Christians, including a child, were hurt in the attack Tuesday night next to the entrance of el-Muharraq monastery in Assuit, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Cairo, where Copts mark religious events. The attackers used knives and clubs, officials said. Later, security forces cordoned off the area.

Father Bakhomious of the monastery said that angry, panicked Christians took refuge inside the monastery and demanded protection.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.