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Coptic Christian boys in Egypt accused of urinating on Quran

CAIRO -- Two Coptic Christian boys in Egypt accused of tearing up a copy of the Quran and urinating on it have been placed in juvenile detention, a lawyer for the children told Reuters on Wednesday.

Residents of Marco village in the province of Beni Suef south of Cairo filed complaints against the two brothers, Mina Nadi, 9, and Nabil Nadi, 10, who were then detained on Tuesday and charged with blasphemy, lawyer Gamal Eid said.

NBC News' Richard Engel spoke with former Arab League chief and former Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Moussa, to ask why there has been so much anti-American violence despite U.S. support of the Arab Spring.

It is the latest in a series of incidents involving religious insults, including protests last month over a film made in California that mocked the Prophet Muhammad, that have increased tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt and around the world.

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Residents of the village and reporters said a passerby had on Monday seen the children ripping up pages of a copy of the Quran and urinating on it in front of the local mosque, Reuters said.

The passerby took the two boys to the local priest to condemn them for the incident, the residents said, but he was not satisfied with what he viewed as the priest's insufficient reprimand and decided to file a complaint to the police.

Protests ignited by a controversial film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad spread throughout Muslim world.

It was not immediately clear why the children had desecrated the Quran, but some residents said the boys were playing and were not incited by anyone to conduct the act.

Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was quoted by the English-language newspaper Daily News Egypt as saying that the children denied the incident and that one of them is illiterate.

Residents said that prosecutors had ordered that the boys be detained for seven days pending an investigation.

Security was stepped up around the village on Tuesday to prevent a potential flare-up of sectarian violence after a group of Muslims gathered around the police station where the children were being held to demand their prosecution, residents said.

At least 20 suspected Islamic militants have been killed in a major security crackdown by Egypt near the border with Israel. Security forces on both sides of the border are on high alert. NBC News' John Ray reports.

Around 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people are Christian, many of whom have been concerned about the political rise of Islamists after a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak last year.

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Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt that there had recently been a rapid increase in charges of blasphemy, or 'contempt of religion'.

"These incidents are on the rise and we are seeing an increase in contempt of religion cases and unfortunately most of the cases end up with jail sentences," he told the newspaper.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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