News / Middle East

Egyptian Investigators Suspect 'Foreigners' in Church Bombing

Angry Coptic Christians clashed with police on Sunday as they demanded more protection for Egypt's Christians following a New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21 of their brethren. Cars driven by Muslims were attacked during the clashes, 2 Jan 2011
Angry Coptic Christians clashed with police on Sunday as they demanded more protection for Egypt's Christians following a New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21 of their brethren. Cars driven by Muslims were attacked during the clashes, 2 Jan 2011

Egyptian investigators say they may have uncovered a number of people with possible links to Saturday's church bombing in Alexandria.  Meanwhile, Egyptian religious leaders are working to maintain a precarious calm between Christians and Muslims after several days of angry demonstrations.   

Egyptian security officials say they have identified a number of possible suspects in Saturday's bloody church bombing in the port city of Alexandria.

Al-Arabiya TV reports Interior Minister Habib al Adli is quoted as saying investigators had uncovered a plot by what was called foreign forces.

Eyewitnesses say a fragile calm prevails after overnight clashes between Coptic Christians and police in front of St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, which is the headquarters of Coptic Pope Shenouda III.  Dozens of police and protesters were reportedly wounded in the clashes.

Pope Shenouda is urging the government to take steps to prevent further violence.

He says everyone should reflect on what to do now in order to come to terms and prevent such events from repeating themselves. He stresses that such violence is new to Egypt.

Egyptian security forces have reportedly been deployed in front of many churches across the country to prevent further attacks. Angry Christians have been demanding the government take action to protect them.

Al-Qaida terrorists have threatened more attacks on churches in Egypt, and other Arab countries on Coptic Christmas, this Friday. An al-Qaida website has listed the names of churches that it says may be attacked.

The Sheikh of Egypt's venerable Islamic Al-Azhar University, Ahmed Tayeb told a gathering that terrorism affects all Egyptians and not just Christians.

He says Muslims and Christians are victims because terrorists have been trained to kill everyone. He insists that what took place at the Alexandria Coptic church may also take place in a mosque next time if terrorism is not nipped in the bud.

University students and staff in major Egyptian cities demostrated to condemn the attack. They chanted anti-terrorism slogans and called for national unity.

Egypt's Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud Zaqzoug urged all Egyptians to unite. He says national unity is the goal of everyone since Egyptians are all the same people.

"Some of us pray in a church and some of us in a mosque, but that is a personal matter and should not affect the fraternal relations between Copts and Muslims."

In Lebanon, former President Amine Gemayel called Saturday's church-bombing a "premeditated massacre of Christians." He tells VOA Egypt and other Arab states must coordinate to try to prevent further such violence: "It is very, very sad to hear the news from Alexandria, and I hope the authorities in Egypt would take the required measures to prevent for the future such kind of events and massacres, and I present my deep sympathy to President Mubarak and to Pope Shenouda."

"We need a strong solidarity among the various Arab leaders, all over the Arab world and the Islamic world to prevent in the future this kind of behavior from the extremists and those people who use political violence to serve I do not know which kind of interests," Gemayel said.

Egypt's government daily al-Ahram reported Coptic Pope Shenouda is refusing to call off Coptic Christmas celebrations Friday.   He is quoted as saying, "Not praying would mean that terrorism has prevented us from celebrating the birth of Christ."

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