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Iraqi and Egyptian Christians Killings


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i'm sorry if there is already a thread about this but nothing came up on my search:shrug:

 

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Iraqi Christians flee Baghdad after cathedral massacreUN says more than 1,000 families have left capital after 58 were killed in attack on church in October

 

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Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee in seeking refuge from militant attacks after the siege at a Catholic cathedral in October, the United Nations said today. .

 

The UN High Commission For Refugees said at least 1,000 families had fled Baghdad and Mosul since 1 September for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. A further 133 families had registered with the organisation in Syria, as had 109 individuals in Jordan.

 

Father Hanna, the leading Assyrian Catholic priest in Beirut said that 450 recently arrived families had contacted with his office and plan to ask the UN for help.

 

The mass movement of Iraq's Christians, the remnants of which make up one of the most ancient communities in the Middle East, was sparked by the brutal siege in a Baghdad Assyrian Catholic cathedral on October 31, which left at least 58 people dead and around 100 injured.

 

Since then, Christian families have been increasingly targeted in their homes, among them survivors of the church massacre. The violence is being driven by al-Qaida and its affiliates and is being seen as an attempt to ignite sectarian chaos after repeated attempts to lure Iraq's Shias back into battle had failed.

 

"We have heard many accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving direct threats. Some were able to take only a few belongings with them," the UN report said.

 

There are thought to be around 500,000 Christians remaining in Iraq, down from 1 million when Saddam Hussein was ousted. They enjoyed protection under Saddam and have not been persecuted by the various Shia-led regimes that have ruled Iraq since. However, many Christian leaders fear that Iraq's leaders can no longer safeguard them from attacks. Many suggest that the last six weeks mark the beginning of the end of an era in Iraq that dates back almost 2,000 years.

 

The UN described the movement as a slow but steady exodus, but Christian leaders disputed this. "I can tell you that the numbers the UN are citing are too low," said Abdullah al-Naftali, head of Iraq's Christian Endowment Group.

 

"We have recorded a 213% increase in normal departures since the church massacre. It is not a slow, or steady exodus - it is a rapid one."

 

The large numbers of families looking for refuge in Iraq's Kurdish north have been drawn there by the region's president, Massoud Barazani, who last month pledged to protect and shelter them.

 

Iraq's central government has also increased security around churches and Christian enclaves.

 

"The Iraqi government has reiterated its commitment to increase the protection of places of worship," the UN said. "While overall civilian casualties are lower this year than last, it appears that minority groups are increasingly susceptible to threats and attacks."

 

The exodus has sparked widespread concern among Christian communities elsewhere in the Middle East, such as Lebanon and Egypt, where they enjoy freedom, but are apprehensive about declining demographic balance.

 

"The Christians in general in the broader Middle East are not really secured and feel a kind of uncertainty all over the Islamic world," said Amin Gemayel, a former president of Lebanon and patriarch of the country's largest Christian bloc.

 

"Unfortunately there is a kind of unconsciousness among the Muslim leaders," he said in an interview with the Guardian. "Even among the moderates we don't feel an effective reaction or see initiatives to stop this kind of behaviour," he added, referring to attacks by extremists.

 

"This is very negative for the Muslim world. The Christians bring a lot to the region. They are eastern people with eastern feelings and eastern values."

 

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Attacks target Iraq's Christians, killing 5

 

BAGHDAD: Baghdad's Christians came under attack again yesterday when a coordinated series of roadside bombs blew up in predominantly Christian neighborhoods, killing five people. The blasts came less than two weeks after insurgents besieged a church and killed 68 people in an assault that drew international condemnation.

 

Police said at least 11 roadside bombs went off within an hour in three predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad. Four blasts hit houses belonging to Christians and two mortar rounds struck Christian enclaves in the southern predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora. Two bombs planted in deserted Christian homes in western Baghdad destroyed two houses.

 

It was the third attack targeting Christians since the church siege on Oct 31. Late Tuesday, a series of bombs hit three empty houses belonging to Christians in western Baghdad but no one was hurt. An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for the church attack and threatened more violence against Iraq's Christian community.

 

The threat left many Christians in the country wondering whether it was time to flee their homeland. "We were terrified by the explosions," said Juleit Hana, a 33-year-old Christian who lives in one of the neighborhoods targeted yesterday. She was having breakfast with her daughter when she heard the bombs go off. She vowed to leave the country. "It's not worth staying in a country where the government is not able to protect you even when you are sitting in your house," she said.

 

The new attacks struck as Iraq's minority Christian community was still in shock over the massacre at Baghdad's main Catholic cathedral, Our Lady of Salvation. It was the worst attack against the Christian minority since the 2003-US led invasion that set the stage for fierce sectarian fighting between Shiite and Sunni Muslim sects, which killed tens of thousands of civilians. Church officials said yesterday that 56 Christians had died in the church massacre. Police officials said 12 others also died.

 

Security was beefed up around churches in Baghdad after the massacre, possibly pushing the militants to seek easier targets, such as Christian homes. Layers of police protect most Shiite shrines in Iraq, and as a result, militants began targeting Shiite pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines.

 

Sunni Islamic militants such as Al-Qaeda consider both Shiites and Christians to be nonbelievers. They have also questioned whether Iraq's Christians are loyal to Christian countries in the West or to Iraq as a way to justify their attacks.

 

Iraq's top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly has encouraged the remaining 1.5 million Christians to stay in the country and called on the authorities for more protection. Catholic officials estimate that more than 1 million Christians fled Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime fell. Amal, a 50-year-old Christian resident of eastern Baghdad who only gave her first name for fear of retribution, said the attacks won't succeed at driving Christians out.

 

We are Iraqis and those attackers want us to leave," said Amal, a mother of four. "We've lived in Iraq for so long. It our home." The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, urged Iraqi authorities to seriously consider the Vatican's plea that they better protect Christians. "It's a very painful situation," the ANSA news agency quoted Bertone as saying yesterday. The Holy See recently held a meeting of Mideast bishops in Rome to discuss the plight of Christians in the region.

 

The bishops praised those who had stayed "in times of adversity, suffering and anguish" and encouraged those who were forced to leave to one day return to their homelands. An Al-Qaeda statement has also threatened Christians across the Middle East unless Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church releases women who the terror group claims are held captive for converting to Islam.

 

Police and hospital officials said 20 people were also wounded in yesterday's violence. It was not immediately clear how many of the casualties were Christian. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Younadem Kana, a Christian member of the Iraqi parliament, blamed security officials for failing to protect the Christians and said that yesterday's bombings exposed "grave flaws in the structure and the work of Iraq's security forces.

 

He said attacks will continue as long as Iraq remains without a government that represents all Iraqis. The country's political leaders are to meet in Baghdad yesterday for the third consecutive day for talks focused on the formation of a new government. For the past eight months since March 7 elections, Iraqi politicians have failed to agree on a government that would include the Sunni-backed coalition led by Ayad Allawi, which narrowly defeated Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated bloc.

 

At stake is whether Iraq has an inclusive government of both the majority Shiites and the minority Sunnis or a Shiite-dominated government with the Sunnis largely in opposition, a recipe that many worry will turn the country back to the sectarian violence of a few years ago. -AP

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Iraqi Christians Cancel Christmas

Al-Qaeda threatens more violence against the beleaguered minority

 

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Iraq's Christian leaders have canceled Christmas services and urged worshippers not to decorate their homes this year after they received fresh threats from al-Qaeda in Iraq on Tuesday. Even an appearance by Santa Claus was called off, reports the AP. "Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," said an archbishop. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."

 

Tensions in the Christian community have grown worse since a church was attacked Oct. 31, killing 68 people and unleashing a wave of violence against the religious minority. Since then, 1,000 Christian families have fled to the more tolerant, Kurdish-ruled region in northern Iraq. Although there are no reliable numbers, US State Department estimates there are as few as 400,000 Christians in Iraq today, down from 1.4 million before the war.

 

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Al-Qaeda affiliate renews threat against Iraqi Christians

Dec 22, 2010

 

Baghdad - An al-Qaeda affiliate responsible for a bloody attack on a Baghdad church earlier this year renewed threats against Iraqi Christians, according to Islamist websites Wednesday.

 

The statement, which has not been verified, said that there would be peace only after the release of two Egyptian women that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) alleges converted to Islam and are being held captive by Egypt's Coptic Church.

 

The ISI also demanded in their letter that 'the occupation and the pact with the devil between the Crusaders and Shiites in Baghdad' must end and that any missionary activity in the region be stopped.

 

At least 52 people were killed in an October 31 siege on the Our Lady of Salvation church, an Assyrian Catholic place of worship in Baghdad. The ISI claimed responsibility for the attack and issued threats against Christians in Egypt, as well.

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Gunmen Target Christian Homes in Iraq, 1 Killed

Published December 30, 2010

 

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say gunmen hurled grenades at the homes of two Christian families in Baghdad, killing at least one person.

 

Police said in one attack, assailants in southwestern Baghdad Thursday threw two grenades inside the home of a Christian family, killing one person and injuring another four.

 

In a different neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, militants threw a grenade inside another Christian home. Two people were injured in that attack.

 

The twin attacks are sure to ratchet up tension among the tiny Christian community still living in Baghdad. At least 68 people were killed in October when militants stormed a Baghdad church during Mass and took the congregation hostage.

 

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to northern Iraq, fearing further attacks.

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Bomb Hits Egypt Church at New Year's Mass, 21 Dead

Published January 01, 2011

 

slideshow_604x341.png

 

 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/12/31/explosion-hits-egypt-church-injuries-reported/#ixzz1AMgKiSjH

 

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – A powerful bomb, possibly from a homicide attacker, exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as a crowd of worshippers emerged from a New Years Mass early Saturday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 80 in an attack that raised suspicions of an Al Qaeda role.

 

The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by Al Qaeda militants in Iraq to attack Egypt's Christians. A direct Al Qaeda hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as Egypt's government has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed car parked outside the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city. But the Interior Ministry later said it was more likely from a bomber who blew himself up among the crowd.

 

Both tactics are hallmarks of Al Qaeda and have been rarely used in Egypt, where the government crushed an insurgency by Islamic militants in the 1990s. Though the government of President Hosni Mubarak denies an Al Qaeda presence, Egypt does have a rising movement of Islamic hard-liners who, while they do not advocate violence, adhere to an ideology similar in other ways to Al Qaeda. There have been fears they could be further radicalized amid growing sectarian tensions between Egypt's Muslim majority and Christian minority.

 

Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the New Year's Mass at the Saints Church, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.

 

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over — legs and bits of flesh."

 

Blood splattered the facade of the church, as well as a mosque directly across the street. Bodies of many of the dead were collected from the street and kept inside the church overnight before they were taken away Saturday by ambulances for burial.

 

Some Christians carried white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the blood of the victims.

 

Health Ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21, with 79 wounded. It was not immediately known if all the victims were Christians. It was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999.

 

Mubarak vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."

 

"This terrorist act has shaken the conscience of the nation," he said in a statement, adding that "all Egypt was targeted, and terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."

 

The blast enraged Christians and stoked already strong sectarian tensions. Soon after the explosion, angry Christians clashed with police and Muslim residents, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the mosque across the street, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.

 

Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But tempers remained high: In the afternoon, hundreds of Christians remained massed inside the church and outside on the street, where they jostled with lines of riot police, chanted, and waved crosses and pictures of Jesus.

 

In a reflection of the deepening mistrust between Egypt's communities, many in the crowd believed police would not fully investigate the bombing, reflecting Christians' suspicions that authorities overlook attacks on their community.

 

Archbishop Arweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, said police want to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they can write it off as a lone attacker. He denounced what he called a lack of protection.

 

"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed vehicle parked about four meters (yards) from the church. But the Interior Ministry said later in a statement that there was no sign that the epicenter was a car. That "makes it likely that the explosives ... were carried on the person of a suicide attacker who died with the others," it said.

 

Around six severely damaged vehicles remained outside the church, but there was little sign of a crater that major car bombs usually cause. Bits of flesh were stuck to nearby walls.

 

Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed Al Qaeda, pointing to recent threats by the terror group to attack Christians in Egypt.

 

He offered no evidence to support his claim, but a recent spate of attacks blamed on Al Qaeda against Christians in Iraq have an unusual connection to Egypt.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says it is attacking Christians there in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, prohibited by the Orthodox Coptic Church.

 

The women have since been secluded by the church, prompting Islamic hard-liners to hold frequent protests in past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says its attacks on Christians would continue until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will.

 

Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s, that peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a pharoanic temple in Luxor. But the government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown, and militant violence all but stopped until a series of bomb attacks against tourist resorts in the Sinai Peninsula between 2004 and 2006.

 

Those attacks in the resorts of Dahab, Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh, which included suicide bombers and killed a total of 125 people, were blamed by the government on local extremists in an attempt to deflect concerns that Al Qaeda had established a presence in Egypt.

 

Egypt has seen a string of attacks on Christians in recent years, most notably, in January 2009, when seven Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting on a church in southern Egypt during celebrations for the Orthodox Coptic Christmas.

 

Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.

 

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Bomb Hits Egypt Church at New Year's Mass, 21 Dead

Published January 01, 2011

 

slideshow_604x341.png

 

 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/12/31/explosion-hits-egypt-church-injuries-reported/#ixzz1AMgKiSjH

 

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – A powerful bomb, possibly from a homicide attacker, exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as a crowd of worshippers emerged from a New Years Mass early Saturday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 80 in an attack that raised suspicions of an Al Qaeda role.

 

The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by Al Qaeda militants in Iraq to attack Egypt's Christians. A direct Al Qaeda hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as Egypt's government has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed car parked outside the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city. But the Interior Ministry later said it was more likely from a bomber who blew himself up among the crowd.

 

Both tactics are hallmarks of Al Qaeda and have been rarely used in Egypt, where the government crushed an insurgency by Islamic militants in the 1990s. Though the government of President Hosni Mubarak denies an Al Qaeda presence, Egypt does have a rising movement of Islamic hard-liners who, while they do not advocate violence, adhere to an ideology similar in other ways to Al Qaeda. There have been fears they could be further radicalized amid growing sectarian tensions between Egypt's Muslim majority and Christian minority.

 

Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the New Year's Mass at the Saints Church, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.

 

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over — legs and bits of flesh."

 

Blood splattered the facade of the church, as well as a mosque directly across the street. Bodies of many of the dead were collected from the street and kept inside the church overnight before they were taken away Saturday by ambulances for burial.

 

Some Christians carried white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the blood of the victims.

 

Health Ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21, with 79 wounded. It was not immediately known if all the victims were Christians. It was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999.

 

Mubarak vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."

 

"This terrorist act has shaken the conscience of the nation," he said in a statement, adding that "all Egypt was targeted, and terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."

 

The blast enraged Christians and stoked already strong sectarian tensions. Soon after the explosion, angry Christians clashed with police and Muslim residents, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the mosque across the street, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.

 

Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But tempers remained high: In the afternoon, hundreds of Christians remained massed inside the church and outside on the street, where they jostled with lines of riot police, chanted, and waved crosses and pictures of Jesus.

 

In a reflection of the deepening mistrust between Egypt's communities, many in the crowd believed police would not fully investigate the bombing, reflecting Christians' suspicions that authorities overlook attacks on their community.

 

Archbishop Arweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, said police want to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they can write it off as a lone attacker. He denounced what he called a lack of protection.

 

"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed vehicle parked about four meters (yards) from the church. But the Interior Ministry said later in a statement that there was no sign that the epicenter was a car. That "makes it likely that the explosives ... were carried on the person of a suicide attacker who died with the others," it said.

 

Around six severely damaged vehicles remained outside the church, but there was little sign of a crater that major car bombs usually cause. Bits of flesh were stuck to nearby walls.

 

Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed Al Qaeda, pointing to recent threats by the terror group to attack Christians in Egypt.

 

He offered no evidence to support his claim, but a recent spate of attacks blamed on Al Qaeda against Christians in Iraq have an unusual connection to Egypt.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says it is attacking Christians there in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, prohibited by the Orthodox Coptic Church.

 

The women have since been secluded by the church, prompting Islamic hard-liners to hold frequent protests in past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says its attacks on Christians would continue until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will.

 

Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s, that peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a pharoanic temple in Luxor. But the government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown, and militant violence all but stopped until a series of bomb attacks against tourist resorts in the Sinai Peninsula between 2004 and 2006.

 

Those attacks in the resorts of Dahab, Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh, which included suicide bombers and killed a total of 125 people, were blamed by the government on local extremists in an attempt to deflect concerns that Al Qaeda had established a presence in Egypt.

 

Egypt has seen a string of attacks on Christians in recent years, most notably, in January 2009, when seven Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting on a church in southern Egypt during celebrations for the Orthodox Coptic Christmas.

 

Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.

 

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Bomb Hits Egypt Church at New Year's Mass, 21 Dead

Published January 01, 2011

 

slideshow_604x341.png

 

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – A powerful bomb, possibly from a homicide attacker, exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as a crowd of worshippers emerged from a New Years Mass early Saturday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 80 in an attack that raised suspicions of an Al Qaeda role.

 

The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by Al Qaeda militants in Iraq to attack Egypt's Christians. A direct Al Qaeda hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as Egypt's government has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed car parked outside the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city. But the Interior Ministry later said it was more likely from a bomber who blew himself up among the crowd.

 

Both tactics are hallmarks of Al Qaeda and have been rarely used in Egypt, where the government crushed an insurgency by Islamic militants in the 1990s. Though the government of President Hosni Mubarak denies an Al Qaeda presence, Egypt does have a rising movement of Islamic hard-liners who, while they do not advocate violence, adhere to an ideology similar in other ways to Al Qaeda. There have been fears they could be further radicalized amid growing sectarian tensions between Egypt's Muslim majority and Christian minority.

 

Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the New Year's Mass at the Saints Church, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.

 

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over — legs and bits of flesh."

 

Blood splattered the facade of the church, as well as a mosque directly across the street. Bodies of many of the dead were collected from the street and kept inside the church overnight before they were taken away Saturday by ambulances for burial.

 

Some Christians carried white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the blood of the victims.

 

Health Ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21, with 79 wounded. It was not immediately known if all the victims were Christians. It was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999.

 

Mubarak vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."

 

"This terrorist act has shaken the conscience of the nation," he said in a statement, adding that "all Egypt was targeted, and terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."

 

The blast enraged Christians and stoked already strong sectarian tensions. Soon after the explosion, angry Christians clashed with police and Muslim residents, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the mosque across the street, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.

 

Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But tempers remained high: In the afternoon, hundreds of Christians remained massed inside the church and outside on the street, where they jostled with lines of riot police, chanted, and waved crosses and pictures of Jesus.

 

In a reflection of the deepening mistrust between Egypt's communities, many in the crowd believed police would not fully investigate the bombing, reflecting Christians' suspicions that authorities overlook attacks on their community.

 

Archbishop Arweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, said police want to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they can write it off as a lone attacker. He denounced what he called a lack of protection.

 

"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.

 

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed vehicle parked about four meters (yards) from the church. But the Interior Ministry said later in a statement that there was no sign that the epicenter was a car. That "makes it likely that the explosives ... were carried on the person of a suicide attacker who died with the others," it said.

 

Around six severely damaged vehicles remained outside the church, but there was little sign of a crater that major car bombs usually cause. Bits of flesh were stuck to nearby walls.

 

Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed Al Qaeda, pointing to recent threats by the terror group to attack Christians in Egypt.

 

He offered no evidence to support his claim, but a recent spate of attacks blamed on Al Qaeda against Christians in Iraq have an unusual connection to Egypt.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says it is attacking Christians there in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, prohibited by the Orthodox Coptic Church.

 

The women have since been secluded by the church, prompting Islamic hard-liners to hold frequent protests in past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq says its attacks on Christians would continue until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will.

 

Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s, that peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a pharoanic temple in Luxor. But the government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown, and militant violence all but stopped until a series of bomb attacks against tourist resorts in the Sinai Peninsula between 2004 and 2006.

 

Those attacks in the resorts of Dahab, Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh, which included suicide bombers and killed a total of 125 people, were blamed by the government on local extremists in an attempt to deflect concerns that Al Qaeda had established a presence in Egypt.

 

Egypt has seen a string of attacks on Christians in recent years, most notably, in January 2009, when seven Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting on a church in southern Egypt during celebrations for the Orthodox Coptic Christmas.

 

Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.

 

 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/12/31/explosion-hits-egypt-church-injuries-reported/#ixzz1AMhEddeT

 

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Egyptian Christians' Christmas celebration clouded by New Year's Day bomb attack

Celebrations go on as scheduled despite grief and anger over the Jan. 1 bombing at a Coptic church in Alexandria.

 

 

Reporting from Cairo —

 

Egypt's Christians celebrated Eastern Orthodox Christmas Eve on Thursday despite their mourning and anger over a New Year's Day bomb attack on a church that killed 25 Copts, and the fear of more violence.

 

Rumors had spread that Coptic Pope Shenouda III would cancel this year's Christmas festivities. But despite Copts' grief over the deaths in the Alexandria bombing, the 87-year-old pope said celebrations would go on as scheduled.

"Of course we feel sadness, and the bombings will leave their mark on all Copts," said Mina Emil, a Coptic banker. "But we will not allow this to overshadow our celebrations."

 

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on All Saints Church in the coastal city, which also injured dozens of people. But a statement published by a group calling itself Shabakat al Mujahedin al Elektroniya, or the Holy Warriors Electronic Network, endorsed the attack, saying that it wouldn't be the last against Copts in Egypt.

 

Adding to the tension, a video attributed to Al Qaeda, called the "Jihadi Encyclopedia for the Destruction of the Cross," featured a line calling on Muslims in Egypt to "blow up churches while Copts are celebrating Christmas or any other time when churches are packed." It was widely circulated on the Internet.

 

Egypt's Interior Ministry deployed armored vehicles, bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and thousands of police officers to protect churches around the clock. Mosques would also be closely watched before and after Friday prayers for signs of trouble, the ministry said.

 

Some Copts were heartened by the show of force.

 

"Security officers are doing a very good job and everyone is doing his best to guard the church from any possible threat," said Joseph Nabil, a Copt who stood outside a church in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo.

 

Many Copts said they were determined not to let fear of further attacks ruin their Christmas.

 

"We have to be realistic," Emil said. "No one can stop a suicide bomber from killing Copts, even if the whole world comes together to protect our churches."

 

The investigation of the New Year's Day bombing continued. After the attack, President Hosni Mubarak rushed to blame "foreign hands" aiming to unsettle the country's security by triggering religious strife. Authorities have yet to provide evidence of such a plot.

 

The Interior Ministry said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, and it has released a sketch by forensic artists depicting the face of the man believed to have set off the blast.

 

But Egypt's prosecutor general issued a statement Thursday saying that investigations had yet to reach a solid conclusion on who was behind the blast or even how exactly it was carried out.

 

The bombing in Alexandria came a month after Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing threatened to assault Coptic targets in Egypt unless two priests' wives, who allegedly were locked up in a southern monastery after converting to Islam, were released.

 

The deadly explosion prompted riots and demonstrations throughout Egypt, mainly by angry Copts who believe that Egyptian authorities have not worked hard enough to protect them from growing hatred among some Muslims. Many secular and moderate Muslims also accuse the government of systematically oppressing and marginalizing Christians in Egypt.

 

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt's population of more than 80 million. Despite the government's claims that Christians enjoy equality with Muslims, Copts complain of difficulties in obtaining permission to build or refurbish churches, a lack of representation in the upper ranks of the civil service and an inability to convert others to Christianity.

 

Pope Shenouda on Monday called on the Egyptian government to "start addressing Copts' problems," which he said lay at the core of the religious animosities.

 

Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo Bureau. Times staff writer Borzou Daragahi in Beirut contributed to this report.

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wednesday on CNN inside the middle east they talked about Christians in the middle east, it was a really interesting episode:nice: especially the part about Iraqi Christians, if anyone is interested i suggest you watch it will air again on saturday 8th January at 8:30, 14:00, 20:30, on sunday 9 January at 18:30 and on Monday 10 January at 04:30 (all times GMT).

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wednesday on CNN inside the middle east they talked about Christians in the middle east, it was a really interesting episode:nice: especially the part about Iraqi Christians, if anyone is interested i suggest you watch it will air again on saturday 8th January at 8:30, 14:00, 20:30, on sunday 9 January at 18:30 and on Monday 10 January at 04:30 (all times GMT).

 

Found parts of it online:

 

From Qadisha valley

 

Interview with the Lebanese Patriarch Sfeir

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