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Church bombing in Egypt claims seven lives

Saturday January 01, 2011 12:20:50 PM, DPA

Alexandria (Egypt): The number of dead in a bombing outside a church in the northern city of Alexandria ranged up to seven, according to official estimates.

The attack Friday evening targeted Coptic Christians who were attending the New Year's Eve mass at the church.

While security sources earlier said that 10 people had been
killed, officials later lowered the number to at least seven.

Twenty-four people were injured, including eight Muslims who were bystanders in the street, officials said.

Security forces cordoned off the area and were searching for those behind the attack, the governor of Alexandria Adel Labib told state TV.

Witnesses said that a car that was parked outside the church exploded shortly after midnight and that ambulances were moving the victims to nearby hospitals.

A group of angry Christians threw stones at a close-by mosque in Alexandria before police dispersed them, witnesses said.

The attack was one of several attacks on Christians around the world as the year came to an end. Attacks on Christian homes in Iraq overnight to Friday claimed two lives. In Nigeria, a bomb blast at a church as well as at a market place killed more than 10 people.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda, has recently threatened Christians throughout the Middle East, saying that they are legitimate targets.

The militant group called for the "release" of two Egyptian women, which they said had converted to Islam and were now being forcibly held by the Coptic church in Egypt.

The militant group had first issued their warning to Christians worldwide when they claimed responsibility for a bloody hostage-taking in October at a Baghdad church which left at least 60 people dead.

The group said it would attack Christians and demanded that pressure be put on the Egyptian Coptic Church to "release" the women.

Egypt intensified security around churches across the country after the Iraq attack in October.

Christians account for roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population, according to official figures.

While violence between the country's Christian and Muslim
populations is rare, tensions have been high since last January's shooting when gunmen opened fire on parishioners leaving a church in the south of the country.

The attack left eight Christians and one Muslim policeman guarding the church dead.

In November, clashes took place when Christians protested against a decision by the authorities to halt construction of a church in a Cairo suburb. Violence left one Christian dead and several injured, while dozens were arrested.






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