Egypt's Christians pick up the pieces after deadly News Year's Eve church bombing
Priests called for calm as mourners gathered Sunday at the scene of the New Year's Eve church bombing that killed 21 and wounded 90 in Alexandria, Egypt.
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A new level of violence
Sectarian attacks in Egypt are usually far less deadly than the New Year's Eve bombing, and they usually do not involve explosives. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Egyptian officials have blamed “foreign elements.” An Al Qaeda-affiliated militant organization in Iraq has repeatedly threatened to attack Coptic Christians in Egypt, saying the church was holding two women against their will to keep them from converting to Islam.Skip to next paragraph
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The government is eager to portray the attack as work of outsiders to dispel sectarian tension, which was evident among some worshipers at the church Sunday.
'They hate us'
Samira Fawzy, who lost two sisters and a niece in the explosion, stood outside the sanctuary after mass, clad in black, with a heavy face and red-rimmed eyes.
“They hate us,” she said of Egyptian Muslims. “All of them say they feel sorry, but we know that they hate us very, very much.”
Her niece Marina, who was killed in the blast, was due to get married in two weeks. “She had bought everything for her wedding,” said Ms. Fawzy before turning away in tears.
Another man said he was wounded fighting for Egypt in the October War, or Yom Kippur War, against Israel. “I brought water to my Muslim comrade who was also wounded,” he said. “And this is how they repay me?”
'Not angry at Muslims'
But many others said they did not hold their Muslim neighbors accountable for the crime. “I'm not angry at the Muslims. They were standing with us. We're angry at the terrorists,” says Mina Adel, a young man who was in the church when the blast rocked the building. But he did direct anger toward the security forces.
“After the explosion, the police were hitting us," says Mr. Adel. "Where were they at the time of the explosion?”
In the hospital next door, a middle-aged man lay on a gurney with a fractured skull and an oxygen mask strapped to his face. He echoed Adel’s complaint, saying his wounds came not from the explosion, but at the hands of the security forces Saturday evening as he attempted to enter the church to help retrieve the bodies for the funeral.
“The security forces wouldn’t let me in,” he said. “They beat me.”
In another room, a 3-year-old girl with burns on her face stared blankly at the ceiling, her legs wounded by the bolts and ball bearings packed into the bomb. Her mother and sister were also wounded in the attack, so her aunt and grandmother tended to her, trying to make her comfortable.
Appeals for calm
Back at the Al Qidiseen church, a priest urged young men not to cause trouble in the streets, and to go straight home after the service.
Afterward, head priest Maqar Fawzy sought to dispel anger toward Muslims.
“We must have an attitude of prayer and love toward all people. We will not turn to hatred,” he said. He blamed the attack on extremists and fanatics, saying, “At the beginning we thought it was sectarian, but now we are sure it is not.”