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Bombing of Coptic Chapel in Cairo Kills 25 People

Last edited 11th December 2016

Bombing of Coptic Chapel in Cairo Kills 25 People

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 Sunday night, saying it does not as a principle kill women, children, the elderly or worshippers.

The statement, at least in theory, leaves the extremist ISIS 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 ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims.

ISIS has targeted Christians in the Sinai Peninsula, where it primarily wages attacks against security forces. However ISIS 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 Coptic Orthodox 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 television and the health ministry put the casualty toll at 25 dead and 49 wounded.

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