Ruling military council vows to combat sectarian disputes

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said on Sunday that it would adopt whatever measures were needed to confront sectarian disputes and preserve the nation's stability.

The message, delivered by the SCAF through its Facebook page, comes two days after widespread protests by Salafi Muslims demanding the release of Kamilia Shehata, a woman who they say converted from Christianity to Islam, but who they now believe to be in the custody of the Coptic Church.

Thousands of Salafis marched to the papal residence following the Friday prayer, where they stayed for some hours, demanding that the Church release Kamilia. The protesters ended their sit-in after the armed forces pledged to release the woman within 15 days.

On Saturday, Egypt's general prosecution urged the church to allow Shehata to appear before a court and give her testimony as part of investigations into charges that the Church has detained her.

Salafi Muslims have staged several protests over the past year calling for the "release" of Shehata, the wife of a priest in Minya, Upper Egypt. Shehata disappeared for five days during July 2010. At the time, Coptic activists staged a series of protests across Egypt accusing Muslims of kidnapping her and forcing her to convert to Islam.

Shehata was later found at a friend's house. It was revealed that she left home willingly after a conflict with her husband. The Coptic Church denied that Shehata converted to Islam. However, the Church’s announcement failed to end protests staged at a number of mosques calling for her release and claiming that the church was holding her against her will in a monastery.

The SCAF's Facebook statement said that tensions have been rising recently between various sects within society in a way that threatens national stability.

"Sectarian incidents do not serve anyone but the enemies of the nation", the statement said.

The military council added that it will not hesitate to take any measures necessary to preserve national unity and stability.

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