Egypt detains Shi'ite activist over weapons possession

CAIRO Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:59am EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Security forces detained an Egyptian Shi'ite activist for possessing of illegal weapons two days after Shi'ites were killed in an attack by Sunni Muslims in a town near Cairo, a prosecution source said on Wednesday.

Mohamed El-Dereiny was found with two machine guns and was detained by security forces on Tuesday. He will be held for four days, pending an investigation, the source said.

Dereiny's family said he had obtained the weapons to protect himself after receiving threats on his life.

Conservative Sunni Muslims, fearing the spread of Shi'ite Islam in Egypt have increased their anti-Shi'ite rhetoric since a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in February, who called for a strategic alliance with Egypt.

Shi'ites form a small minority of Egypt's 84 million population and keep a low profile.

Residents of the town Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province surrounded the home of a another prominent Shi'ite on Sunday after learning he was hosting a religious gathering. They attacked the guests, killing at least four and mutilating their bodies.

The prosecutor's office said, in remarks carried by state newspaper al-Ahram on Tuesday, that a fifth victim had died. Egyptian police have arrested eight people over the killings.

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi condemned the crime but his liberal opponents accuse him and his Muslim Brotherhood of allowing ultra-conservative Salafi allies to whip up anti-Shi'ite sentiment in return for their support.

Mursi was a guest of honor this month at a rally where a cleric described Shi'ites as heretics.

(Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Alison Williams)

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