December 1, 2023

Big disaster … Bomb inside main cathedral in Egypt (same as in 2011) – Would same results happen?

25 killed by bomb blast at St Mark’s Cathedral. Explosion during mass targeted worshippers near St Mark’s Cathedral, the main Coptic church in central Cairo.

A bomb blast has killed at least 25 people during Sunday mass inside a Cairo church near the main Coptic Christian cathedral, according to Egyptian state TV .

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The explosion ripped through St Peter’s Church at around 10:00 am local time, wounding at least another 49 people, according to Egyptian health ministry cited on state TV.

St Peter’s Church is beside St Mark’s Cathedral, which is the seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian church and is home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II.

Services were being held in St Peter’s on Sunday morning, while St Mark’s Cathedral was being renovated.

A state-run news agency reported that a bomb was lobbed inside the church, though the AP news agency cited witnesses saying the bomb was planted inside the building itself.

“I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene,” cathedral worker Attiya Mahrous, who rushed to the chapel after he heard the blast, told AP. His clothes and hands were stained with blood and his hair matted with dust.

The attack occurs two days after six security officers  were killed and three others were injured in Haram district in Giza.

National mourning declared after the attack

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi described the bombing as a “terrorist act” that has no place in Egypt.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

According to Mohamad Elmasry, an associate professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, the “barbaric attack against Coptic Christians is not an aberration”.

“Since the coup, the Egyptian government and ISIS-affiliated ‘terrorists’ have traded attacks. The government has cast an unnecessarily wide ‘terrorism’ net, carrying out unprecedented human rights violations, including several mass killings, against moderate members of the political opposition.”

The coup, which overthrew  Mohamed Morsi , Egypt’s first democratically elected president, brought with it a dramatic increase in violence, particularly in the Sinai region.

On Friday, six  policemen were killed in a bomb attack in Cairo  claimed by an armed group known as the Hasm movement.

The Egyptian army, under General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and its police forces have faced  dozens of attacks  from several armed groups that have continued to grow in recent years.

“Perhaps more than anything, today’s attack demonstrates the extent to which current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power largely on a security platform, has failed to deliver on one of his most important campaign promises,” Elmasry added.

However, there were conflicting reports as to the nature of the attack. Egypt’s official Mena news agency said an assailant threw 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.

Amal Louka, who works with a service for disabled people at the cathedral, said she was in a meeting in an adjacent church when she heard the explosion, said “We heard a very loud noise – it felt as if the church was falling down,” she said. “When we got to the scene, there was a lot of blood and severed body parts as well as many corpses on the floor. The explosion had hit the women’s area of the church, so most of the casualties were women.”

Dr Maha Halim gathered with hundreds of others to express their grief at the entrance to the cathedral in the hours after the bombing. “They timed [the attack] to the prayers, to kill as many people as possible,” she said. “There is obviously a feeling of grief, but this will not shake Egypt.”

Alexandria’s al-Qiddissin church bombing in 2011

On New Year’s Eve of 2011 in the city of Alexandria in Egypt, Coptic Christians were celebrating New Year Mass at the al-Qiddissin (Saints) Church. As the service drew to a close, a bomb outside went off in the street outside. The priest tried to calm those inside, with little success. 21 people were killed, and 43 people were injured. Initially it was assumed that the blast was produced by a car bomb, though Egypt’s Interior ministry later claimed that it was the work of a suicide bomber.

Ex-minister suspected of orchestrating al-Qiddissin church bombing

Egypt’s general prosecutor – on Feb. 7, 2011 – opened probe on former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly’s reported role in the 2011 New Year’s Eve bombing of al-Qiddissin Church in Alexandria in which 24 people were killed.

Laywer Ramzi Mamdouh said he had presented a proclamation to Egyptian prosecutor Abd al-Majid Mahmud to investigate news media reports suggesting that the former interior ministry had masterminded the deadly church attack with the intent to blame it on Islamists, escalate government crackdown on them, and gain increased western support for the regime.

 Mahmud said the information contained in some reports were “serious.”

The proclamation, numbered 1450, pointed to the news reports sourcing a UK diplomat who explained the reasons why Britain has insisted on the immediate departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his regime, especially his interior ministry’s security apparatus previously directed by el-Adly.

According the UK diplomatic sources quoted in the reports, the former interior minister had built up in over six years a special security system that was managed by 22 officers and that employed a number of former radical Islamists, drug dealers and some security firms to carry out acts of sabotage around the country in case the regime was under threat to collapse.

The proclamation also pointed, sourcing reports on UK intelligence services, that interior ministry officer Maj. Fathi Abdelwahid began on Dec. 11, 2011 preparing Ahmed Mohamed Khaled, who had spent 11 years in Egyptian prisons, to contact an extremist group named Jundullah and coordinate with it the attack on the Alexandria church.

The Al-Qiddissin church explosion in 2011 and other similar incidents – that the security services at the time were accused of orchestrating to achieve political gains for the regime and expose the Egyptian people to more repression – acted as a prelude to the eruption of the January Revolution. Will St. Mark cathedral explosion lead to similar results?