Four Egyptian Shia Muslims were killed on Sunday when they were attacked by a hostile Sunni mob in a village in Giza province near the capital, police said.
Residents of the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo surrounded the home of a prominent Shia figure Hassan Shehata, after learning he was hosting a religious gathering, witnesses and security sources told Reuters, and asked them to get out.
When they refused, a crowd of several hundred people stormed the building, beat the guests and threw petrol bombs at the house, setting it on fire, the sources said.
The state newspaper al-Ahram said that the mob stabbed, beat and dragged the bodies of the victims. Around 30 were badly injured and four were pronounced dead by the Health Ministry.
The newspaper also said that the mob was led by a Salafi sheikh and that five houses were set on fire.
The Egyptian police showed up late at the scene and did not intervene in the public beatings, eyewitnesses told al-Ahram.
Shehata, a prominent Shia figure, was jailed twice under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for "contempt of religion."
President Mohamed Mursi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood have this month thrown their weight behind a call for jihad in Syria by fellow Sunni Islamists across the Middle East, heightening awareness of sectarian frictions in Egypt, where Shias are a small minority.
Tension among Egypt's hardline Sunnis over the spread of Shiia has been increased by a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for a strategic alliance with Egypt.
Nothing came of that proposal, but around 100 Sunni Islamists demonstrated in front of a senior Iranian diplomat's residence in April to protest against Egypt's decision to admit commercial flights from Iran.