Firemen fight a fire at a church surrounded by angry Muslims in the Imbaba neighborhood in Cairo late Saturday, May 7, 2011. Christians and Muslims fought in the streets of western Cairo in violence triggered by word of a mixed romance, Egypt's official news agency reported. – AP Photo

CAIRO, May 8: Egypt's government warned on Sunday it will use an “iron hand” to ensure national security after clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo killed 12 people and injured scores.

Authorities would “strike with an iron hand all those who seek to tamper with the nation's security,” Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi told reporters after the cabinet held crisis talks.

Gindi said the government would “immediately and firmly implement the laws that criminalise attacks against places of worship and freedom of belief” using anti-terror laws to combat those “threatening national security”.

The statement came at the end of nearly four hours of cabinet talks and after Egypt's military rulers had said 190 people detained in connection with the clashes would face military trial.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power since a popular uprising toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February, said the move was a “deterrent” to all those who sought to sow strife in the country.

Saturday's clashes in the working-class neighbourhood of Imbaba in northwestern Cairo left 12 people dead and 232 injured, state television said.

Among those killed were four Christians and six Muslims, while two other bodies were still unidentified.

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