25 killed at Cop­tic Chris­tian cathe­dral

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Mariam Fam and Hamza Hendawi

cairo» Sun­day morn­ing Mass was draw­ing to a close at the chapel next to St. Mark’s Cathe­dral, the seat of Egypt’s an­cient Cop­tic Ortho­dox Church, when Magdy Ramzy said there sud­denly was a “shat­ter­ing ex­plo­sion like noth­ing I had ever heard be­fore.”

A bomb ripped through the chapel in the cathe­dral com­plex in cen­tral Cairo, killing 25 peo­ple and wound­ing an ad­di­tional 49, mostly women and chil­dren, one of the dead­li­est attacks on the coun­try’s Chris­tian mi­nor­ity in re­cent mem­ory.

“It felt like the world has turned up­side­down,” said the 59-year-old Ramzy, who was wounded be­hind the ear by shrap­nel. He fran­ti­cally searched the wrecked chapel and out­side for his wife, Sabah Wadie, Only later did he learn she was killed and his daughter-in-law and three of his grand­chil­dren were wounded.

Ramzy sobbed un­con­trol­lably at the hospi­tal as he leaned on relatives for sup­port.

“This is one of the acts of terror that we used to watch on tele­vi­sion. Now, we saw it with our own eyes,” he said.

The bomb­ing of the Boutrossyia chapel — and an­other one Fri­day that killed six po­lice of­fi­cers — were grim re­minders of Egypt’s struggle to re­store se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity af­ter nearly six years of tur­moil.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks by Is­lamic mil­i­tants since 2013, when the mil­i­tary over­threw Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi, a freely elected leader and a se­nior Mus­lim Brother­hood of­fi­cial. Many of his sup­port­ers blamed Chris­tians for sup­port­ing his ouster, and scores of churches and other Chris­tian-owned prop­er­ties in south­ern Egypt were ran­sacked that year.

Since 2013, au­thor­i­ties have waged a sweep­ing crack­down, out­law­ing the Mus­lim Brother­hood, jail­ing thou­sands of mostly Is­lamist dis­si­dents and killing hun­dreds in street clashes.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Sun­day’s at­tack.

One of the worst pre­vi­ous attacks against Chris­tians by Is­lamic mil­i­tants was a 2011 bomb­ing at a church in the Mediter­ranean city of Alexan­dria that killed 21.

The Is­lamic State also has tar­geted Chris­tians in the Si­nai Penin­sula, where it pri­mar­ily goes af­ter se­cu­rity forces. Most Is­lamic State attacks in Egypt have been con­fined to se­cu­rity per­son­nel and ju­di­cial of­fi­cials.

Fri­day’s po­lice bomb­ing was claimed by a group that au­thor­i­ties say is linked to the Mus­lim Brother­hood. That group — called “Hasm,” or “De­ci­sive­ness” — dis­tanced it­self from Sun­day’s at­tack in a state­ment that said it does not as a prin­ci­ple kill women, chil­dren, the el­derly or wor­ship­pers. The Brother­hood, in a sep­a­rate state­ment, con­demned the at­tack.

The bomb­ings are al­most cer­tain to un­der­mine the modest re­cov­ery in re­cent months by the vi­tal tourism sec­tor af­ter years of slump­ing that fol­lowed the 2011 popular up­ris­ing that top­pled au­to­crat Hosni Mubarak.

They also could bol­ster the ar­gu­ment used by the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi that sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity are top pri­or­i­ties if Egypt is to pros­per eco­nom­i­cally and avoid slid­ing into the kind of chaos and vi­o­lence now seen in coun­tries such as Libya, Syria and Ye­men.

Sun­day’s bomb­ing was con­demned by govern­ment and re­li­gious lead­ers, and it drew calls for unity be­tween Egypt’s Mus­lim ma­jor­ity and Chris­tians, who ac­count for about 10 per­cent of the coun­try’s 92 mil­lion peo­ple.

Egyp­tians shout slo­gans as they gather out­side the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cop­tic Ortho­dox Church in Cairo’s Ab­basiya neigh­bor­hood af­ter it was tar­geted by a bomb. The blast killed at least 25 dur­ing Sun­day Mass. Mo­hamed Meteab, AFP

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