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.


Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

Updated 14 min 10 sec ago

Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

  • El-Sisi was apparently referring to Turkey and Qatar
  • Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula

CAIRO: Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.
The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.
Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.
The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the US, Britain and Canada.
The Sahel region is home to Al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked militants. El-Sisi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.
Egypt has for years been battling a Daesh-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Mursi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.
Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.
Since Mursi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.
El-Sisi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He did not elaborate.
He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”
El-Sisi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.
El-Sisi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.
Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.
Haftar has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital. He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.