Cairo cathedral bomb blast kills at least 25
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Cairo cathedral bomb blast kills at least 25

Explosion targets St. Mark’s, the main Coptic Christian house of worship in Egypt’s capital; 35 injured

Egyptian security forces gather at the site of an explosion at the Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, in the Abbasiya neighborhood in the capital Cairo, December 11, 2016. (AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)
Egyptian security forces gather at the site of an explosion at the Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, in the Abbasiya neighborhood in the capital Cairo, December 11, 2016. (AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)

Egyptian media said Sunday a blast at Cairo’s main Coptic Christian cathedral killed 25 people and injured at least another 35.

The explosion occurred at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo.

The cathedral is the seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian church and is home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II.

There were no claims of responsibility for any attack, but jihadists in Sinai have targeted Christians before, as well as Muslims they accuse of working with the government.

Egypt’s official MENA news agency said an assailant lobbed a bomb into a chapel close to the outer wall of the cathedral.

However, witnesses said the explosion may have been caused by an explosive device planted inside the chapel. Conflicting accounts are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks.

An Associated Press reporter who arrived at the scene shortly after the blast saw bloodstained pews and shards of glass scattered across the chapel’s floor. Men and women wailed and cried outside the chapel.

“I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene,” said cathedral worker Attiya Mahrous, who rushed to the chapel after he heard the blast. His clothes and hands were stained with blood and his hair matted with dust.

Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million, have faced persecution and discrimination that spiked during the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011.

Islamist extremists have regularly incited violence against Copts, especially since the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

They accused the Christians of supporting his ouster, which came after millions of protesters took to the streets demanding his resignation.

On August 14, 2013, mobs attacks dozens of churches across the country after police killed hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo.

Dozens have been killed in recent years in sectarian attacks and clashes throughout Egypt.

The attack came two days after an explosion on a main Cairo thoroughfare killed six police and wounded three others, in what appeared to be the deadliest attack on security forces in several months.

The state-run MENA news agency said Friday’s explosion took place near a mosque on Pyramids road, the main avenue leading from the city center out to the Giza pyramids, which is often used by tour buses. It said the blast targeted security forces, without elaborating on what caused the explosion.

Insurgents have carried out a number of attacks in Egypt since the 2013 military ouster of elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The violence has been concentrated in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but there have also been several attacks on the mainland, including in the capital.

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