Egypt’s Coptic Christian community held a funeral service today for 24 Christians killed as they worshipped at a chapel next to the faith’s main cathedral in Cairo – one of the deadliest attacks against them by Islamists.
It emerged today that a suicide bomber had walked into the Sunday Mass at the Virgin Mary chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the ancient Coptic Christian church.
Original reports had said a bomb had been lobbed over the wall, but Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said today a suicide bomber had been to blame.
Speaking at a state funeral for the victims, Sisi identified the suicide bomber as 22-year-old Shafik Mahmoud Mohamed Mostafa.
He also said three men and a woman had been arrested in connection with the attack.
Sisi called for tighter laws to help deter future attacks.
The coffins of the victims were laid in front of the altar today as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s nine million Coptic Christians, Pope Tawadros II, led the service.
No group has claimed responsibility but Julie Lenarz, executive director of the Human Security Centre, said Coptic Christians had been the subject to a ‘witch-hunt’ since the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the army.
She told Mail Online: ‘Both during and after Morsi’s tenure, Coptic Christians have been the subject of a large-scale campaign of violence and terror.
‘After the Coptic leadership threw their support behind the military government, Muslim Brotherhood leaders incited their followers to target Christian infrastructure in revenge attacks.
‘Over 50 churches were completely destroyed and an intense and escalating witchhunt against the religious minority has been taken place ever since.
‘Yesterday’s atrocity was a poignant reminder of the chaos and bloodshed the ideology of Islamism, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, brings to Egypt and beyond.’
At one point Pope Tawadros leaned on his staff and quietly prayed in front of the coffins.