Egypt Detains 17 People After Bomb Kills 21 at Church

January 2, 2011

By Alaa Shahine, Bloomberg

Egyptian police have rounded up 17 people after a bomb, possibly detonated by a foreign-backed suicide bomber, killed 21 people outside a church in Alexandria, Al Jazeera television reported, citing unidentified security officials.

The blast, which occurred shortly after midnight yesterday, also injured more than 90 people, according to the Health Ministry. President Hosni Mubarak blamed the attack on “foreign elements” and called for unity among Muslims and Christians.

Tension between the two communities has been building over several years in the Muslim-dominated country. Scores of Christians protested in Alexandria after the attack, pelting police forces with stones, television footage showed.

The Interior Ministry said yesterday that it has beefed security up around churches nationwide “in light of the escalating threats from al-Qaeda to many countries,” according to a statement on its website.

Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq said in November it would attack Christian targets after it claimed Egypt’s Coptic Church was holding two Christian women who had converted to Islam. The church has denied this charge. No group has claimed responsibility for today’s blast.

The attack bears the “fingerprints” of al-Qaeda, said Amr El-Shobaki, an analyst at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “It was either successful in planting a cell in Egypt or recruited individuals to carry out a single operation,” he said.

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