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Egypt suspects al Qaeda link in church bombing

Video by Kethevane GORJESTANI , Katharyn GILLAM

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-03

Egypt has begun screening people arriving from countries where al Qaeda is active after finding that the militant group may have been behind the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year's Day.

REUTERS - Egypt is screening people who arrived recently from countries where al-Qaeda is known to recruit after early findings suggested the militant network was behind a New Year’s church bombing, security sources said.

A suspected suicide bomber killed 21 people and wounded 97 others outside a Coptic church in Alexandria during a New Year’s midnight service. The authorities have been holding seven people for questioning.

FRANCE 24

The bombing has prompted hundreds of Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt to protest in Alexandria and Cairo against what they say is the failure of the authorities to protect them.

Egyptian officials have said there were indications “foreign elements” were behind the blast and said the attack seemed to have been the work of a suicide bomber.

”The security forces have confirmed that finger of suspicion indicates that the culprit was a suicide bomber linked to al Qaeda,” a security source, who asked not to be identified, said.

Another source said police had stepped up security at Egypt’s ports and airports to prevent anyone who might have been involved from fleeing as the investigation continues

“Security is preparing a list of those who have arrived in Egypt recently from countries where al Qaeda is known to recruit operatives,” the second security source said.

The attack came two months after al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Iraq attacked a Baghdad church and threatened to strike Coptic churches in Egypt, accusing the Egyptian Christian denomination of mistreating female converts to Islam.

Two weeks ago, a statement on Islamist websites urged Muslims to attack Coptic churches in Egypt, as well as among Egyptian Christian communities in Germany, France, Britain and elsewhere around Christmas, which Orthodox Copts celebrate on
Jan. 7.

A statement after the blast on another Islamist website read: “This is the first drop of heavy rain, hand over our prisoners and turn to Islam.” No group was named.

The German government said it had warned Coptic Christians living in Germany about the risk of possible attacks, just hours before the New Year’s blast in Alexandria.

“I can confirm that on New Year’s Eve the interior ministry contacted the bishop of the Coptic Christians in Germany, Anba Damian, to tell him about this risk,” German Interior Ministry spokesman Stephan Paris told reporters.

Date created : 2011-01-03

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