Saturday, January 1, 2011

'Suicide bomber responsible' for blast outside church in Alexandria that kills 21

 Updated Saturday aternoon :  A bomb exploded outside a church in Egypt's northern city of Alexandria at midnight on Friday, killing 21 people and wounding almost 100, security sources said. The blast went off about a half-hour after midnight as worshippers were emerging from a New Year's Mass at the Saints Church in Alexandria.
 The explosion was likely carried out by a suicide bomber, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement on Saturday.Earlier reports had blamed a car bomb for the explosion that went off in the early hours of the new year, as worshipers were leaving the Al-Qeddessine (The Saints) Church after New Year’s Mass.
The ministry said initial findings indicate that the explosion started outside the two suspect cars. The bomber was killed in the explosion, it added.The ministry reiterated earlier official statements that blamed “foreign elements” for masterminding and executing the attack.
After the explosion Muslims and Christians started rioting. Eyewitnesses say that some Christians were attempting to burn a nearby mosque.Also Christians from the church clashed with police in anger over the blast, a police official said. The Christians hurled stones at police and a nearby mosque, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," the witnesses said.

The attack may have a connection with Iraq. In October 52 people were killed in a siege of a church in Baghdad. Last Thursday two more Christians were killed in a string of bomb attacks in Baghdad. The attacks in Iraq were claimed by  Al-Qaida in Iraq, which said it carried out the campaign of anti-Christian attacks in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces from their husbands. The two women have since been secluded with Coptic Church authorities. Islamic hard-liners in Egypt have held frequent protests in the past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam and return to Christianity.  The Church denies holding the women against their will.
Christians are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of nearly 80 million people. In January 2009, seven Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting on a church in southern Egypt during celebrations for the Orthodox Coptic Christmas. Bombings of churches, however, have been rare in recent years.

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