Tuesday, July 16

Death toll in Egypt church bombing reaches 21, 50 hurt


 

 

The death toll in a church bombing in the Egyptian Nile Delta city of Tanta has climbed to 21, with 50 more injured, state television said on Sunday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the cause of the blast, just one week before Coptic Easter and the same month as Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt, was not known.

Islamic State’s branch in Egypt, which has waged a low-level conflict for years in the Sinai peninsula, has stepped up attacks on Christians in Egypt in recent months.

A suicide bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December, many of them women and children, in one of the deadliest attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority in years. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.

A shift in Islamic State’s tactics from attacking soldiers and police to targeting Christian civilians has become a potential turning point in a country trying to halt a provincial insurgency from spiralling into wider sectarian bloodshed.

Egypt’s Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014, ruthlessly targeting religious minorities. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians working in Libya were killed by Islamic State.

Copts face regular attacks by Muslim neighbours, who burn their homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of church.

Tanta was also the site of another attack earlier this month when a policeman was killed and 15 were injured after a bomb exploded near a police training centre.