World

Bomb blast at Egypt Coptic cathedral kills 25

CAIRO A bomb blast killed at least 25 worshippers during yesterday's mass inside a Cairo church, near the seat of the Coptic pope who heads Egypt's Christian minority, state media said.

The explosion ripped through the church at around 10am (4pm, Singapore time), Egyptian security officials said.

It was the deadliest suspected attack on the country's beleaguered Christian minority in recent memory.

The blast in the church adjacent to Saint Mark's Coptic Cathedral in the Abbasiya neighbourhood shattered its glass windows and left a scene of carnage in the main prayer hall.

State television quoted a security official who said a bomb made of TNT appeared to have been behind the explosion.

"Tell the sheikh, tell the priest, Egyptians' blood is not cheap," a crowd outside the church chanted, as ambulances lined up to evacuate the casualties.

The church "is deeply loved by many Coptic faithful in Cairo, and it has a regular parish presence", said Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop for the Coptic Church in Britain.

He said services had been held in the church yesterday morning, while the adjacent St Mark's Cathedral was being renovated.

"It's an easier target because its entrance is outside the precincts of the cathedral."

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

Copts, who make up 10 per cent of Egypt's population of 90 million, have faced persecution and discrimination dating back to the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011.

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

With security forces as the main target, militants have repeatedly attacked policemen and soldiers since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and unleashed a bloody crackdown on his followers.

On Friday, two roadside bombs - one in Cairo and one north of the capital - killed six policemen and wounded six others. 
- AFP, REUTERS

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