The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy denounces the deadly bombing in Cairo, Egypt today at St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church near St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the seat of the Holy See of the Coptic Church.
At the time of this statement, at least 25 people were killed and up to 49 injured after an explosive device detonated on the side of the church where women normally sit; six children were among the dead. Until now, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack; terror groups Liwaa al-Thawra and Hassam condemned the explicit targeting of civilians. Protests emerged later in the day in response to the attack, with chants denouncing the state’s negligence in preventing violence against Christians.
“Today’s bombing symbolizes the degree to which sectarianism threatens the fabric of Egyptian society,” said TIMEP executive director Nancy Okail. “It is my hope that Egyptian authorities make every effort to hold the perpetrators accountable. Failure to adequately pursue justice following past attacks represents a lapse in the rule of law that has created an environment of impunity allowing such violent attacks to continue.”
The bombing is one of the deadliest sectarian attacks since the New Year’s 2011 bombing on the Church of Saint Mark and Saint Peter in Alexandria, where 23 were killed. It is also one of the deadliest events for Christians since the Maspero Massacre in which 28 individuals were killed in clashes with security forces during demonstrations over a church that was attacked. This attack carried additional symbolic weight as it struck at the heart of Egypt’s Coptic Christians by targeting their Cathedral, the seat of the Pope, in addition to its disproportionate impact on women and children.
Throughout recent history Christians in Egypt have been consistently targeted in sectarian attacks, with perpetrators rarely being brought to justice. The New Year’s 2011 bombing was never investigated properly and until today, no one has been held responsible for the death of 23 worshipers. In April 2013, a funeral at the Cathedral for victims of sectarian violence in Khusus led to further violence and the besieging of the Cathedral. To date, no one has been held responsible for this violence. Eshhad, TIMEP’s project tracking sectarian attacks across Egypt, notes today’s bombing as the fifty-fourth sectarian incident that Egypt has witnessed thus far in 2016.
TIMEP condemns this catastrophic attack and sends its thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. TIMEP calls on Egyptian authorities to seriously investigate this attack in order to prosecute those responsible in accordance with the law, and to take preventative measures necessary to ensure that security practices are effective. Given past attacks on funerals and Coptic-led protests, Egyptian authorities should also immediately mobilize security forces to protect protesters and the funeral scheduled for December 12.
For additional information on trends and analysis of sectarian attacks please visit Eshhad’s website.
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.