Bomb Hits Egypt Church At New Year's Mass, 21 Dead
CAIRO - A car exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as worshippers emerged from a New Year's Mass in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early Saturday, killing at least 21 people, officials said.
After the blast, enraged Christians emerging from the church clashed with police and stormed a nearby mosque, prompting fights and volleys of stone throwing with Muslims, police and witnesses said — a sign of the sectarian anger that has been arising with greater frequency in Egypt.
Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the Mass at the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, said a priest at the church, Father Mena Adel. The service had just ended, and worshippers were leaving the building when the blast went off, about a half-hour after midnight.
"I was inside the church and heard a huge explosion," Adel told The Associated Press. "People's bodies were in flames."
The blast came from a car parked outside the church, but police said they were still investigating whether the car had been rigged with explosives or if a bomb had been placed under it. Witnesses reported seeing the charred chassis of the destroyed car, with the remains of several bodies nearby and dozens wounded.
The Interior Ministry originally said in a statement that seven people were killed and 24 wounded. Senior Health Ministry official Osama Abdel Moneim later raised the toll to 21 after more bodies were transferred to hospitals.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed al-Qaida, pointing to recent threats by the terror group's branch in Iraq to attack Christians. It was not clear, however, if Labib had firm evidence, and he may have intended more to deny any homegrown Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt.
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