Cairo church bombing kills 25
Kuwait, Amir condemn attack
A bomb blast tore through a church near Cairo’s Coptic cathedral during a service yesterday, killing at least 25 people in the deadliest attack in recent memory on Egypt’s Christian minority. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing but Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have been previously targeted in attacks. At least 31 people were also wounded in the blast, the health ministry said, as the attack drew condemnation from political and religious leaders and led President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to declare three days of national mourning.
The bombing hit around 10:00 am at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church, which is adjacent to Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic pope Tawadros II. A bomb made of 12 kilos of TNT appeared to have been behind the explosion, security officials said. The blast shattered the church’s glass windows and scattered pews through the main prayer hall, scorching its marble pillars. Bloodstains could be seen on the floor, where shoes and other belongings lay scattered.
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences yesterday to Sisi, expressing his deepest sympathies for the victims of the blast. The Amir voiced Kuwait’s vehement condemnation of such criminal acts that threaten Egypt’s security and stability, and wished those wounded in the attack a speedy recovery. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah sent cables of similar sentiments to the Egyptian president.
The Kuwaiti government also voiced vehement condemnation of the “terrorist” blast. An official source at the foreign ministry said in a statement that such “terrorist” acts would never undermine Egypt’s resolve to fight terrorism resolutely. The source reiterated that Kuwait stands by Egypt in its fight against terrorism, and supports all its security measures to preserve its security and stability. The source offered heartfelt condolences to Egypt’s leadership, government and people over the victims of the church explosion, and wished swift recovery to those injured in the blast.
“I was leaving the church and then I heard a loud explosion and there was a lot of smoke and people started running and screaming,” Jackline Abdel Shahid, one of the survivors of the blast, told AFP at the scene. “The ambulances started coming, and they kept bringing out body parts. The floor was covered in blood, and the whole church was stained with blood, broken glass everywhere, everyone screaming, torn clothes,” she said.
Gebrail Ebeid, who has been headed to services when the bombing took place, accused Egypt’s government of not doing enough to protect the Christian community. “This is the government’s responsibility. The explosion happened inside the church,” said Ebeid. “Where were the security forces? They’re filling the streets now, but it’s too late,” he said. Several dozen people gathered outside to protest after the bombing, chanting for the resignation of Egypt’s interior minister. They briefly scuffled with police as they tried to push through the cordon.
It was the worst attack on the Coptic Christian community since a 2011 suicide bombing killed more than 20 worshippers outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria. “This latest attack should be a wake-up call to the authorities that their actions to prevent attacks on Coptic Christians have long been inadequate,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar rushed to the area after the blast and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail called on security services to quickly find those responsible. “The nation’s Muslim and Christian citizens stand together against this black terrorism,” Ismail said in the statement. Sisi condemned what he described as “the abhorrent terrorist attack”, saying in a statement: “Egypt will only emerge stronger and more unified from these events. ”The president also called the pope to offer his condolences.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority Al-Azhar, said the “vile terrorist explosion” was “a great crime against all Egyptians”. The church that was targeted “is deeply loved by many Coptic faithful in Cairo and it has a regular parish presence,” said Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop for the Coptic Church in Britain. He said services had been held in the church on Sunday morning, while Saint Mark’s Cathedral was being renovated. “It’s an easier target because its entrance is outside the precincts” of the cathedral.
CAIRO: Protesters shout slogans as they gather outside the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in the Abbasiya neighborhood after it was targeted by an explosion yesterday.