At least 25 people, mostly women, have been killed in an explosion inside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral on Sunday, December 11th 2016. Forty-nine other worshippers were reportedly injured during the explosion, Egyptian state television reported.
Security sources told the Reuters news agency at least six children were among the dead.
The explosion reportedly occurred during church service at about 10am local time (0800GMT) at the St Peter and Paul Church adjacent to the St Mark Coptic cathedral.
Reuters cites security sources as saying a device containing about 12 kg of the explosive TNT had denoted on the women’s side of the cathedral.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack although supporters of the Islamic State group celebrated it on social media.
Egypt’s orthodox Copts who constitute about 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people, are the biggest Christian community in the Middle East.
The Copts have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders saying they are poorly represented in the government and have also been kept out of many positions of justice.
The rise of Islamist activities in Egypt in the wake of Hosni Mubarak’s fall in February 2011 has worsened the marginalization of the Copts.
Islamists are waging an insurgency led by the so-called Islamic State’s branch in North Sinai where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed.
The insurgents have also launched deadly attacks in Cairo and other cities.
Coptic Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s population.
St Mark’s Cathedral is the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox church, and the home of its leader, Pope Tawadros II.
What is the Coptic Christian faith?
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt. While most Copts live in Egypt, the Church has about a million members outside the country.
Copts believe that their Church dates back to around 50 AD, when the Apostle Mark is said to have visited Egypt. Mark is regarded as the first Pope of Alexandria – the head of their church.
This makes it one of the earliest Christian groups outside the Holy Land.
Bishop Angaelos of the UK’s Coptic Orthodox Church said his prayers were with Egyptian Copts, “as well as for the broader Egyptian society that fall victim to similar inhumane attacks.”
On Saturday, six policemen were killed when a bomb exploded on a main road leading to the pyramids at Giza. The explosion, at a police checkpoint, was the deadliest attack on security forces in Cairo in more than six months.
A recently formed militant group called Hasm said it had carried out that attack.