EGYPT: Bomb kills 21 at Alexandria Coptic Church
The moment of the attack - Footage courtesy the al-Qiddissin Church Watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12101748
BBC News January 1, 2010
At least 21 people have been killed at a Egyptian church in an explosion which officials have blamed on a suicide bomber with foreign links.
More than 70 others were injured in the attack, during a new year's service at the al-Qiddissin (Saints) Church in the northern port city of Alexandria.
Coptic Christians and Muslims clashed after the attack, but police moved in and used tear gas to restore order.
President Hosni Mubarak urged Egyptians to unite against "terrorism".
In a televised statement, he blamed "foreign hands" for the bombing.
"Wicked terrorists targeted the nation, Copts and Muslims," he said.
"It is a terrorist operation that is alien to us... We will all cut off the head of the snake, confront terrorism and defeat it."
So far no group has said it carried out the attack.
'Lack of protection'
About 1,000 worshippers were attending the new year's mass at the church in the Sidi Bechr district of the Mediterranean port city.
As the service drew to a close after midnight, a bomb went off in the street outside.
"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," 17-year-old Marco Boutros told the Associated Press from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over."
Another witness told the private On-TV channel that he had seen two men park a car outside the church and get out just before the blast.
Officials initially thought the cause was a car bomb, but the interior ministry later ruled it out, saying the attack was instead "carried out by a suicide bomber who died among the crowd".
The device was packed with pieces of metal shrapnel to cause the maximum amount of harm, a statement said.
Yolande Knell Middle East specialist. Sectarian tensions have been increasing recently across Egypt, with violent incidents every couple of weeks.
The Naga Hamady shooting that killed six Christians almost a year ago sounded alarm bells.
Divisions have widened in recent decades between Egypt's Sunni Muslim majority and the Coptic Christian minority, who have become more religious.
Schools, political stagnation and the media are all blamed for increasing polarisation.
The security services are widely criticised. Often police delay their response to small sectarian disputes, meaning they escalate.
When crimes take place, there are indiscriminate arrests of equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, followed by reconciliation meetings. In 99% of cases perpetrators go unpunished.
Officials often deny sectarian problems exist and simply respond to clashes with calls for national unity.
Even if foreign links are proven, the scale of this latest attack will make it much harder to ignore.
And the circumstances of the attack, "given the methods that currently prevail in terrorist activities at the global and regional level, clearly indicate" that it was "planned and carried out by foreign elements", it added.
But the most senior Coptic cleric in Alexandria, Archbishop Arweis, said the security services wanted to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they could write it off as something carried out by a lone attacker.
He also denounced the "lack of protection" in front of the church.
"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaeda?" he told the Associated Press.
The government said it had stepped up security measures outside churches after the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, threatened the Copts of Egypt at the end of October.
Christians in the Coptic Orthodox Church make up about 10% of Egypt's population, most of whom are Muslims.
Police confront protesters outside the church in Alexandria targeted by a bomb (1 January 2011) Dozens of police were deployed to disperse a crowd of Copts angered by the attack
After the explosion, angry Copts clashed with police and local Muslims, reportedly throwing stones and targeting a nearby mosque. Some cars were also set ablaze in the turmoil.
Protesters went into the mosque, throwing books out onto the street.
The mosque was also damaged by the bomb and the casualties included eight injured Muslims, the health ministry said.
Dozens of police rushed to the scene and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The protests restarted later on Monday, with Copts marching through the area shouting, "With our soul and our blood we will redeem the Holy Cross" and "O Mubarak, the heart of the Copts is on fire".
BBC reporter Assad Sawey says the situation is very tense. He says relatives are being denied access to the victims' bodies at the mortuary and it is not clear when they will be buried.
In recent months, Copts have complained of discrimination, while some Muslims accuse churches of holding converts to Islam against their will, our correspondent reports.
I'm sorry to see this style of attacks, which was unknown in Egypt"
End Quote Boutros Boutros Ghali Former UN Secretary-General
The BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the Alexandria bombing is likely to intensify the growing feeling among Christians in the Middle East that they are a community under attack.
The blast is deeply embarrassing for the Egyptian police who, despite having draconian powers, have proved repeatedly incapable of anticipating and thwarting such violence, he says.
Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, condemned the attack.
"I'm sorry to see this style of attacks, which was unknown in Egypt. This style has spread in Iraq and other countries like Pakistan.
"This reminds me of the situation in Karachi where a Shia mosque is blown one day and a Sunni mosque is blown up the next and civil war goes on between the two groups," he told Nile TV.
Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city with a population of about 4 million, has seen sectarian violence in the past.
In 2006, there were days of clashes between Copts and Muslims after a Copt was stabbed to death during a knife attack on three of the city's churches.
Archbishop condemns church bombing in Alexandria
January 1, 2011
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today made the following statement on the bomb attack at a Coptic church in Alexandria:
"The new year's eve attack on Christians in Alexandria is yet another dreadful reminder of the pressure of Christian minorities are under in the Middle East, echoing the atrocities we have seen in recent weeks.
The Coptic community and other Christian groups in Egypt can be sure of our deep sorrow at this terrible event and our continuing prayers and support for them. We know the long and honourable history of co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and are confident that the overwhelming majority of Egyptian people will join in condemning this and similar acts."
The Episcopal Diocese of Egypt
With North Africa and The Horn of Africa
Bishop: The Rt. Rev. Dr. Mouneer H. Anis
A Statement by the Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Anglican Bishop of Egypt
1 January 2010
We express our deep sadness and mourn the loss of life after the New Year's bombing at a Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria. We also express our condolences to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and to the families and friends of the victims of this terrible and inhuman attack.
It is very clear from the nature of this attack that it was planned by Al Qaeda, especially after the threats that were made against Egypt after the attacks on the church in Baghdad on 31 October 2010.
We are currently cooperating with the Egyptian Security to improve the security measures of all our churches in Egypt. This will involve creating security barriers and security cameras. We are not used to such measures, but we have been requested to do this.
We pray that all the people of Egypt Christians and Muslims, would unite against this new wave of religious fanaticism and terrorism. We also request your prayers for us and for the Egyptian Government who tries hard to combat terrorism.
The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer H. Anis
Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Voice of the Copts condemning the uncivil, barbaric and fascist attack against a Coptic Church in Alexandria
Voice of the Copts strongly condemns the barbaric act committed this morning in the early hours of the New Year against Coptic worshipers at a church in Alexandria, Egypt.
The car bomb attack carried out by Arab Muslims against innocent people leaving their place of worship is a cowardly act and a clear picture of the real face of the so-called Religion of Peace.
Voice of the Copts urges the entire civil world to stand up and counter this new wave of violence against civilian non-Muslims.
We condemn the Egyptian regime and its ruler Mubarak in neglecting to defend and protect all citizens and for becoming a part of the terrorist network of attacks against Christians of Egypt and Christians around the world.
The massacre of Copts on New Year's Eve is not the first and will not be the last. We are certain that Mubarak and his regime will allow further attacks as part of the Islamic attempt to conquer and cleanse the non-Muslim population.
Voice of the Copts demands an international investigation into today's murder of innocent people and all past crimes which have not been brought to justice.
In the 2011 New Year we resolve to raise our voices even louder and more forcefully against the Islamic agenda in Egypt, the Middle East and the entire world and to reveal its true nature.
Voice of the Copts is asking all free men/women in the United States and western countries to join together to form a coalition to counter this Nazi fascist system.
We must combat this evil. We must not tolerate the intolerance of human rights and freedom.
No more tolerance against terrorism.
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