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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid