An attack on Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49. Many of the victims were women and children since the bomb was placed in the section reserved for female believers. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is under fire because Islamists have been consistently targeting Christians in Egypt during his government.
There has not been an immediate claim, but the Islamic State is suspected of being responsible for the attack. At least six children were among the dead, security sources told Reuters.
Emad Shoukry, who was inside the St. Mark’s Cathedral -the seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian Church- when the explosion happened. He told Reuters that the bomb was detonated as soon as the priest called churchgoers to prepare for prayer. He continued and said that the blast shook the place and added he was able to leave the building running among several people that laid on the ground.
Local authorities have stated the explosion was caused by a device containing at least 26 pounds (12 kilograms) of TNT. Some witnesses have claimed the bomb was introduced to the cathedral in a woman’s bag who placed the explosive device on the floor of the building and left the scene.
Al-Sisi’s administration condemned the attack as a terrorist one and declared three days of national mourning. Still, people are discontent with the government due to its support for Muslims, who have attacked the Christian minority in the past.
The Cairo bombing was the deadliest attack against Egypt’s Christians in years
The blast occurred around 10:00 a.m. As security officials arrived at the scene, angry churchgoers gathered outside the cathedral, accusing security officers of negligence.
People has stated that there was no security at the gate because they were all having breakfast inside a van. Tarek Attiya, a police spokesman, denied the accusations and said the security team was operating a metal detector at the church entrance as normal.
While several people accused the security force, others were demanding vengeance and some others were accusing President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of not taking care of Christians during his administration.
Orthodox Copts are the Middle East’s biggest Christian community, comprising about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
“As long as Egyptian blood is cheap, down, down with any president…” chanted protesters outside the bombed cathedral
Others repeated “the people demand the fall of the regime,” the rallying cry of the 2011 uprising that helped end Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Mr. Sisi’s government is currently facing economic struggles including high inflation and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.
The last major attack on Christians in Egypt occurred weeks before the start of the 2011 uprising. It targeted worshippers that left a new year’s service in Alexandria and killed at least 21 people.
The Christian community in Egypt is also showing opposition to the Coptic Church leader, Pope Tawadros II because he has been a vocal supporter of President Al-Sisi. Some protesters have said that the pope does not speak for their political views, The New York Times reports.
The bombing at St. Mark’s Cathedral is the second major attack in Cairo in three says as the Islamic State loses ground in Iraq and Syria. An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for an explosion at a security check post on Friday. Six police officers died.