Egypt Blames al-Qaida-Linked Palestinian Group for New Year’s Bombing

An Egyptian man cleans blood-staind from the door of the Al-Qiddissine (The Saints) church following an overnight car bomb attack that targeted the church in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on January 1, 2011 and killed at least 21, hitting Egypt's Christian community, the biggest in the Middle East. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Jan 23 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — Egypt’s interior minister has blamed a Palestinian group linked to al-Qaida for the New Year’s Day suicide bombing that killed more than 20 people and wounded about 100 others at a Coptic Christian church.

Habib al-Adly announced Sunday that the government believes the Army of Islam was behind the attack.

The Palestinian militant group is believed to have played a role in a cross-border attack in 2006 that resulted in the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The more recent attack occurred a half hour into the new year at a church in the northern city of Alexandria where worshippers had gathered to celebrate Mass.

The bombing prompted protests by Christians saying the state had not done enough to protect them from extremists. Witnesses also said that after the attack, Coptic Christians tried to attack a mosque across from the church, and that fights broke out causing more casualties.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas condemned the attack, saying the perpetrators were seeking to promote confrontation between Muslims and Christians.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims have been on the rise in Egypt and Iraq following threats by al-Qaida.

While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the New Year’s Day attack, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq had claimed responsibility for other recent bombings, saying they were in retaliation for two Egyptian Christian women who converted to Islam. (*)

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