President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi said Monday that a suicide bomber was responsible for an attack that killed 24 worshipers at Cairo’s Coptic cathedral complex during Sunday Mass as outrage grew among Egypt’s Christian minority.
Speaking to hundreds of mourners at a state funeral, Sissi said that the bomber wore a vest packed with explosives and that four people suspected of aiding him had been arrested. Security forces were looking for two people with possible links to the attack, he said.
The country’s interior ministry described the alleged bomber as a 22-year-old man from the town of Fayoum, 60 miles south of the capital, Cairo. It also released a picture of what it said was the bomber’s head.
At least 49 people were wounded in the explosion at the Botrosiya Church, which is also known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The church is adjacent to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Pope Tawadros II.
The attack was the deadliest on Christians since a suicide bomber killed 23 congregants at a church in Alexandria on Jan. 1, 2011.
Health Ministry officials lowered the death toll by one, to 24, suggesting that the bomber had initially been counted among the victims. Many of the dead were women and children.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, and Sissi did not name any suspected organizations as being involved. But the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamic extremists, including Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, who have been behind numerous attacks on soldiers, policemen and government officials, as well as Christians, across the country this year.
“The attack brought us great pain, but we will never be torn apart,” Sissi told the mourners. “God willing, we will win this war.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Mahfouz