Bomb­ing at Egypt’s main Cop­tic Chris­tian cathe­dral kills 25.


CAIRO | A bomb­ing at a chapel ad­ja­cent to Egypt’s main Cop­tic Chris­tian cathe­dral killed 25 peo­ple and wounded an­other 49 dur­ing Sun­day Mass, one of the dead­li­est at­tacks car­ried out against the re­li­gious mi­nor­ity in re­cent mem­ory and a grim re­minder of Egypt’s dif­fi­cult strug­gle to re­store se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity af­ter nearly six years of tur­moil.

The at­tack came two days af­ter a bomb else­where in Cairo killed six po­lice­men, an as­sault claimed by a shad­owy group that au­thor­i­ties say is linked to the out­lawed Mus­lim Brother­hood.

That group — called “Hasm,” or “De­ci­sive­ness” — dis­tanced it­self from the at­tack in a state­ment is­sued Satur­day, say­ing it does not as a prin­ci­ple kill women, chil­dren, the el­derly or wor­ship­pers.

The state­ment, at least in the­ory, leaves the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State group or like-minded in­de­pen­dent mil­i­tants as the chief sus­pects.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Sun­day’s at­tack. How­ever, Is­lamic mil­i­tants have tar­geted Chris­tians in the past, in­clud­ing a New Year’s Day bomb­ing at a church in the Mediter­ranean city of Alexan­dria in 2011 that killed at least 21 peo­ple.

More re­cently, churches and Chris­tian prop­erty in south­ern Egypt were tar­geted in the af­ter­math of the mil­i­tary’s July 2013 ouster of an Is­lamist pres­i­dent. Those were blamed on Brother­hood sup­port­ers and ul­tra­ortho­dox Salafi Mus­lims.

The Is­lamic State has tar­geted Chris­tians in the Si­nai Penin­sula, where it pri­mar­ily wages at­tacks against se­cu­rity forces. How­ever, Is­lamic State at­tacks on the Egyp­tian main­land have largely been con­fined to se­cu­rity per­son­nel and ju­di­cial of­fi­cials.

Re­gard­less of who is be­hind the bomb­ing, the at­tack was likely to deal a set­back to Egypt’s strug­gle to re­gain nor­malcy and re­vive its ail­ing econ­omy since a pop­u­lar up­ris­ing top­pled au­to­crat Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011. More­over, the at­tacks this past week were al­most cer­tain to un­der­mine the mod­est re­cov­ery made in re­cent months by the vi­tal tourism sec­tor.

Egypt’s of­fi­cial MENA news agency said an as­sailant lobbed a bomb into a chapel ad­ja­cent to St. Mark’s Cathe­dral, seat of Egypt’s Ortho­dox Chris­tian church and home to the of­fice of its spir­i­tual leader, Pope Tawadros II, who cut short a visit to Greece to re­turn to Cairo af­ter the blast.

Egyp­tian state TV and the Health Min­istry put the ca­su­alty toll at 25 dead and 49 wounded.

Wit­nesses said the ex­plo­sion may have been caused by an ex­plo­sive de­vice planted in­side the chapel. A se­nior church cleric, Bishop Moussa, said at the cathe­dral that there were un­con­firmed re­ports that a woman pos­ing as a wor­ship­per left a bag in the chapel’s women’s sec­tion be­fore slip­ping out. Con­flict­ing ac­counts are com­mon in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of at­tacks.

The blast took place as a Sun­day Mass in the chapel was about to end and co­in­cided with a na­tional hol­i­day in Egypt mark­ing the birth of Is­lam’s Prophet Muham­mad. Most of the vic­tims are thought to be women and chil­dren.

State tele­vi­sion aired calls by sev­eral Cairo hos­pi­tals treat­ing the wounded for blood do­na­tions and Pres­i­dent Ab­delFat­tah el-Sissi de­clared a three-day state of mourn­ing.


Se­cu­rity forces ex­am­ine St. Mark Cathe­dral in Cairo fol­low­ing a bomb­ing on Sun­day. The blast killed 25 of peo­ple and wounded many oth­ers, mak­ing it one of the dead­li­est at­tacks car­ried out against the re­li­gious mi­nor­ity in re­cent mem­ory.

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