Haroon Siddique and agencies
Sunday 11 December 2016
Egyptian state TV says 35 people left injured in attack on St Mark’s Cathedral, the second explosion in capital in two days
A bomb blast at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral has killed at least 25 people, state media said.
The attack on the Cairo church, which occurred at approximately 10am (0800 GMT) on Sunday morning, was one of the deadliest against Egypt’s beleaguered Christian minority in recent memory.
Another 35 people were injured, Egyptian state TV reported, when the bomb exploded in 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.
There were conflicting reports as to the nature of the attack. Egypt’s official Mena news agency said an assailant lobbed a bomb into a chapel close to the outer wall of the cathedral, but some witnesses suggested an explosive device had been planted inside the building.
“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.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed bloodstained pews and shards of glass scattered across the chapel’s floor shortly after the blast, as men and women wailed and cried outside the chapel. Ambulances lined up outside the church in the capital’s Abbasiya district to evacuate the dead and wounded.
A crowd gathered outside the church chanting: “Tell the sheikh, tell the priest, Egyptians’ blood is not cheap.” Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population of 90 million, faced persecution and discrimination during the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011. On New Year’s Day in 2011, shortly before the beginning of the uprising against Mubarak, a suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria.
They have faced further attacks at the hands of Islamist extremists since the 2013 military overthrow of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement. Morsi’s supporters accused Christians of supporting his ouster, which came after millions of protesters took to the streets demanding his resignation.
On 14 August 2013, mobs attacks dozens of churches across the country after police killed hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Bishop Anba Angaelos, the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox church in the UK, said the news of the bombing in Egypt had been received with “great sadness”.
“Our prayers are with those whose lives have been so senselessly ended, those who have been injured, and every family and community affected,” he said. “We also pray for every Coptic parish and community across Egypt as they fill their churches this morning, as well as for the broader Egyptian society that fall victim to similar inhumane attacks.” – The Guardian