Suicide Bomber in Deadly Attack on Egyptian Church Identified

A nun reacts as Egyptian security forces (unseen) inspect the scene of a bomb explosion at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church on December 11, 2016, in Cairo's Abbasiya neighbourhood. The blast killed at least 25 worshippers during Sunday mass inside the Cairo church near the seat …

The suicide bomber who struck a Coptic church in Cairo on Sunday, killing 24 Christians, has been identified by the Egyptian government as 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed Mustafa.

The Associated Press reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced three men and a woman have been arrested in connection with the attack on the chapel near St. Mark’s Cathedral, which is the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Earlier reports of 25 slain victims appear to be in error; the bomber himself was the 25th body recovered from the scene. An additional 35 people were wounded in the blast.

A service was held for victims’ relatives on Monday, at which “some screamed out in grief, while the rest quietly sobbed or sat somberly as a priest led the service.”

Al-Arabiya reports the attack took place at the end of a Sunday mass that coincided with the birth of Islam’s Mohammed. The bomb contained about 12 kilograms of TNT and was detonated on the women’s side of the cathedral, making most of the victims women and children.

“As soon as the priest called us to prepare for prayer, the explosion happened,” said eyewitness Emad Shoukry. “The explosion shook the place… The dust covered the hall and I was looking for the door, although I couldn’t see anything… I managed to leave in the middle of screams and there were a lot of people thrown on the ground.”

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, Al-Arabiya reported ISIS followers celebrating on social media with messages such as “God is great” and “God bless the person who did this blessed act.”

The Coptic pope, Tawadros II, denounced the attack as “not just a disaster for the church but a disaster for the whole nation.”

“Those who commit acts such as this do not belong to Egypt at all, even if they are on its land,” he said, as quoted by the UK Guardian.

However, the Guardian reports some complaints about lax security for the Mass from some Christians and about a surge in violence against Christians across Egypt, leading to scuffles between police and protesters on Monday. Some protesters called for the firing of Egypt’s interior minister, while others wanted to bring down the entire Sisi government, repeating the slogan: “the people demand the fall of the regime” from the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.


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