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7 Dead, 24 Wounded in Egypt Church Blast

An Egyptian official inspects a car bomb following a car bomb attack on a Christian church in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on January 1, 2011.

An explosion has killed at least seven people at a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt, where worshippers had gathered to celebrate mass on New Year's Eve.

Egypt's Interior Ministry said in a statement early Saturday that seven people were killed and 24 wounded in the blast, which occurred about a half-hour after midnight on New Year's Day.

The explosion came from a car parked in front of the church. It was not clear whether the bomb had been inside the car or under it.

Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bomb, saying it was retaliation for two Egyptian Christian women who converted to Islam. Al-Qaida says the women are being held hostage by the Christians for having converted.

Some Egyptian Christians - known as Copts - are protesting at the site of the explosion.