Bombing at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral kills 25

Egyptian security forces examine the scene inside St. Mark Cathedral in central Cairo following a bombing on Sunday. (Omar El-Hady via AP)
Updated 12 December 2016

Bombing at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral kills 25

CAIRO: A bombing at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral killed 25 people and wounded another 35 on Sunday, according to Egyptian state television, making it one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory.
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. Islamic militants have targeted Christians in the past, including a New Year’s Day bombing in Alexandria in 2011 that killed at least 21 people.
Egypt’s official MENA news agency said an assailant lobbed a bomb into a chapel close to the outer wall of St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian church and home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II.
However, witnesses said the explosion may have been caused by an explosive device planted inside the chapel. Conflicting accounts are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks.
An Associated Press reporter who arrived at the scene shortly after the blast saw blood-stained pews and shards of glass scattered across the chapel’s floor. Men and women wailed and cried outside the chapel.
“I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene,” said cathedral worker Attiya Mahrous, who rushed to the chapel after he heard the blast. His clothes and hands were stained with blood and his hair matted with dust.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Egypt has seen a wave of attacks by Islamic militants since the military overthrew President Muhammad Mursi, a freely elected leader who hailed from the Brotherhood, in 2013. Many of Mursi’s supporters blamed the overthrow on Christians, and several churches and other Christian-owned properties were ransacked in the aftermath.
The authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown in recent years, jailing thousands of mostly Islamist dissidents and killing hundreds in clashes sparked by demonstrations.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”