News / Middle East

Egyptian President Condemns Deadly Explosion Outside Church in Alexandria

Egyptian firemen try to put out a fire on a vehicle following a car bombing in front of a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, 01 Jan 2011
Egyptian firemen try to put out a fire on a vehicle following a car bombing in front of a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, 01 Jan 2011

Eyewitnesses say at least 21 people have been killed and scores wounded in a suicide bombing attack at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt. Tensions between Christians and Muslims have been on the rise in Egypt and nearby Iraq following recent threats by the al-Qaida terrorist group.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denounced the explosion at a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria overnight, calling on Christians and Muslims to unite in confronting such acts of terrorism.

He says that this act of terrorism points to the involvement of foreign gangs that wish to turn Egypt into a terrorist playground in the region. He warns that he and the Egyptian people will stop these forces from carrying out their plots to destabilize the country and destroy the cohesion and unity of its people. The plotters, he adds, will ultimately be captured and punished.

People inside All Saints Coptic church began screaming after the initial blast, as a priest urged them to stay calm. The New Year's eve midnight mass had just drawn to a close and worshippers were preparing to leave. Many of those who began leaving early were either killed or wounded.

Firemen doused the flames after the blast while friends and rescue workers ferried the wounded to local hospitals.

A heavy set man who was burned across his face explains what happened, saying he was leaving the church when he felt a massive explosion. He said he was dazed by the force of the blast and woke up in the hospital.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber although several eyewitnesses claim a car bomb was responsible for the blast.

Other eyewitnesses say angry Coptic Christians tried to attack a mosque across from the church after the explosion and that fights broke out, causing more casualties. Al-Arabiya TV showed a crowd of mostly young Coptic men waving their fists and shouting as police intervened.

The local TV news channel, Nile News, reported that despite the angry reactions of many people, dozens of ordinary Egyptians rushed to area hospitals to donate blood for victims of the blast.

The Sheikh of Egypt's venerable al-Azhar University, Ahmed Tayeb,  condemned the explosion, insisting it was carried out by evil outside forces trying to damage the image of Islam.

He says that al-Azhar expresses its deep sorrow for this odious crime which troubles everyone's conscience. No Egyptian, he insisted, could have committed such an act, which was the deed of outside forces. He said that such people are strangers to Islam, because attacking a church is to attack a house of worship. Such people, he added, are aiming to damage the image of Islam in the West and create sectarian strife in the streets of Arab and Islamic countries.

Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali also condemned the explosion. He told Egyptian TV that this type of explosion takes place regularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, but is not a normal event in Egypt.  He said such acts must not be allowed to proliferate.

Said Sadek, who teaches political science at the American University of Cairo, argues that the danger of the explosion is that it could set off further sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.

"Alexandria has been a bastion of the Muslim brotherhood and there is a lot of extremism in Alexandria anyway and so we saw the reaction afterwards," said Sadek. "You saw attacks by the Copts at a nearby mosque because they felt maybe the Muslims are happy with what happened and so they made their attack and then the Muslims attacked back. So the real alarm is the reaction afterwards from the people in the area."

Sadek points out that many of the underlying sectarian conflicts in Egypt, including building churches, freedom of religion, and conversions between one faith and another are difficult to resolve. "No one is addressing these problems," he notes, "because there are no easy solutions."

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs