Cairo: Terrorism once again fed into sectarian strife after an explosion targeted on Sunday a chapel that adjoins Cairo’s main Coptic Christian cathedral, leaving 23 people killed and at least 49 injured, mostly women and children.
“The terrorism attack killed 23 people, mainly women, and injured 49 others, five of them in critical conditions,” spokesperson for the Health Ministry Mohammed Al-Tuni told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Following the terrorist attack, Egypt announced three days of mourning.
A security official and eyewitnesses said the explosion took place around 10a.m. on Sunday at St Mark’s Coptic Christian cathedral and the seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II.
The country’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned the attack and called on Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, to unite facing terrorism.
“Terrorism targets the country’s Copts and Muslims… Egypt will only be made stronger and more united in such circumstances,” the president said in a statement.
The president vowed to punish the assailants and put on trial all who have “incited, facilitated or participated” in the terrorist attack.
However, the incident places several question marks around the effectiveness of the security plan launched by Egypt prior to the season of Christian celebrations in Cairo. The attack also rubs salt in the wounds of the government that hopes to revive tourism and attract foreign investment to alleviate the economic pressures facing the country.
The explosion also spurred a large wave of anger against high-ranking officials, while Arab, Islamic and international officials condemned the attack.
Saudi Foreign Ministry said it condemned, in strong wordings, the terrorist bombings that targeted a Coptic church on Sundy and offered condolences to the families of the victims, the Egyptian government and people.
The ministry said: “Such coward act is deplorable by Islam and all faith, as it contravenes established human values, norms, principles and international charters.”
Sunday’s explosion comes as part of a terrorist plan that crosses all boundaries. In 2013, Egypt has faced a number of attacks against churches during protests launched by the Muslim Brotherhood when President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown.
Following the escalatory threats launched by ISIS in the region, Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, have also witnessed several attacks against places of worship.
Last October, even the Mecca area was targeted by a ballistic missile launched by Houthi militias from the province of Saada. The Saudi Air Defense was capable to intercept the missile without causing any damages.