Cairo church bombing raises fears among Christians

A nun cries as she stands at the scene inside Cairo's Coptic cathedral, following a bombing, in Egypt December 11, 2016. (Reuters)

A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49, many of them women and children attending Sunday mass, in the deadliest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in years.

The attack comes as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fights the Egyptian branch of ISIS.

The militant group has also carried out deadly attacks in Cairo and has urged its supporters to launch attacks around the world in recent weeks as it goes on the defensive in its Iraqi and Syrian strongholds.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but ISIS supporters celebrated on social media. “God bless the person who did this blessed act,” wrote one supporter on Telegram.

The explosion took place in a chapel, which adjoins St Mark’s, Cairo’s main cathedral and the seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II, where security is normally tight.

Sisi’s office condemned what it described as a terrorist attack, declaring three days of mourning and promising justice. Al-Azhar, Egypt’s main Islamic center of learning, also denounced the attacks.

Orthodox Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, are the Middle East’s biggest Christian community.

The last major attack on a church took place as worshippers left a New Year’s service in Alexandria weeks before the start of the 2011 uprising. At least 21 people were killed.

Egypt’s Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since ISIS spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014, ruthlessly targeting religious minorities. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians working in Libya were killed by ISIS.

The attack came two days after six police were killed in two bomb attacks.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II cut short a visit to Greece after learning of the attack. In a speech aired on state television, he said “the whole situation needs us all to be disciplined as much as possible ... strong unity is the most important thing.”

Church officials said earlier on Sunday they would not allow the bombing to create sectarian differences.

But Christians, convinced attacks on them are not seriously investigated, say this time they want justice.

“Where was the security? There were five or six security cars stationed outside so where were they when 12 kg of TNT was carried inside?” said Mena Samir, 25, standing at the church’s metal gate. “They keep telling us national unity, the crescent with the cross ... This time we will not shut up.”

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Last Update: 06:49 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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