Alexandria, Asharq Al-Awsat – An eye-witness to the Alexandria New Year’s Day Church bombing who was hurt in the blast informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he saw the man he believes was responsible for the attack that killed 23 people and injured dozens more.
Eye-witness Edward Anton Gergis, who is 62-years old, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I saw a man in his forties getting out of one of the cars, he put a cell phone to his ear, and spoke…and then he walked towards the pavement opposite the church; the explosion took place immediately after this.”
Gergis, who was struck by shrapnel in the blast and is today recuperating in hospital in east Alexandria, stressed that this man “did not have a beard…he was in his forties and of average height.” He added “I believe he is the man responsible for the attack.”
The initial reports following the attack on the Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter in the Alexandria district of Sidi Bishr was that this explosion was caused by a car bomb, with a green Skoda which pulled up outside of the Church – according to eyewitnesses- being responsible. However the Egyptian authorities later clarified that this explosion was caused by a lone suicide bomber in the crowd outside of the Church, denying that this explosion was caused by a car-bomb.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to the owner of the car in question, who said that it wasa miracle that he is alive. Alfred Farid, a Christian lawyer living in Alexandria who attended mass at the Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter prior to the attack, and was waiting for his aunt – who was still inside the church at the time of the explosion – said that he did not see who was responsible for this attack, however he must have been close to the car as it was propelled a number of meters forward by the force of the blast. Farid was not alone in this car, but was accompanied by his brother, and three cousins, who had also attended mass.
The Egyptian authorities impounded the car that they initially believed was linked to the bombing before it became clear that a suicide bomber was responsible for this attack. The authorities also interrogated al-Farid, before releasing him.
Farid told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I attended mass at the Church, and after I left I sat in my car with my brother Marcos Farid and our cousins Madonna, Regina, and Enji Munir; we were waiting for my Aunt Samiya Jibreel, who was speaking to one of the priests in the Church.”
He said “we suddenly heard the sound of an explosion that propelled the car from where it was parked, pushing it several meters forward, where it came to a stop in the middle of the street. We all suffered different injuries, and the car was destroyed, particularly the front.”
Farid also confirmed that he did not see who was responsible for the attack, and he did not see anything suspicious before the explosion. He told Asharq Al-Awsat “as a result of the explosion, the car doors wee locked and we couldn’t open them…but we finally managed to get out of the car via the windows…we ran into the church which had turned into what looked like a field hospital.”
He added that while he suffered only minor injuries, although one of his cousins severely burned her hand, with everybody in the car being injured in some form. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “when we entered the church, we found the injured and the bodies of victims everywhere, it was a horrifying scene, and we soon saw a large number of doctors rushing into the church to treat the wounded, including a Muslim doctor I know…everybody’s goal was to save as many people as possible.”