Suspected suicide bomber kills 17 at Egypt church
Updated: 2011-01-01 21:03
Health minister says 17 dead, media reported 21; Ministry suspects suicide bomber, foreign links
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - A bomb killed at least 17 people outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early on New Year's Day, and the Interior Ministry said a foreign-backed suicide bomber may have been responsible.
Dozens of people were wounded by the blast, which scattered body parts, scorched cars and smashed windows. The attack prompted Christians to protest on the streets, and some Christians and Muslims hurled stones at each other.
Egypt, due to hold a presidential election in September, has stepped up security around churches, banning cars from parking directly outside them, since an al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq issued a threat against the Church in Egypt in November.
Saturday's blast did not originate in any of the cars that were destroyed, an interior ministry statement on the official news agency said. "It is likely that the device which exploded was carried by a suicide bomber who died among others," it said.
The circumstances of this attack, compared with other incidents abroad, "clearly indicates that foreign elements undertook planning and execution," the statement added.
President Hosni Mubarak promised in a televised address that the terrorists would not destabilise Egypt or divide Christians and Muslims, and said the attack "carries evidence of the involvement of foreign fingers.
Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told Reuters by telephone that there were 17 confirmed dead, 12 of them already identified as Christians. Five bodies had yet to be identified. He said initial assessments indicated 70 people were wounded.
State media earlier reported 21 killed in the blast, which struck as worshippers marking the New Year left the church. The ministry had initially blamed the explosion on a car bomb.
Egyptian Christians carry the bodies of victims of a car bombing in front of the Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria, 230 km (140 miles) north of Cairo, Jan 1, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
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