More suspects held in Cairo Coptic cathedral bombing

Cairo, Dec 12 (IANS/AKI) Egyptian security forces have arrested “further” suspects over a blast at Cairo’s main Coptic Cathedral complex that killed at least 24 people and injured 49, said the state-run daily Al-Ahram Online on Monday citing the interior ministry.

Earlier, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said security forces had arrested three men and a woman for their alleged involvement in Sunday’s attack, while two more suspects were still at large.

Speaking in an address at a state funeral on Monday for victims of the blast, Sisi said the attack was carried out by a 22-year-old Egyptian suicide bomber named Mahmoud Shafiq Mohamed Mostafa, who blew himself up using an explosives belt.

Sisi denied reports that the blast was caused by a bomb in a handbag, daily Al-Masry al-Youm said on its English-language website.

Mostafa was a member of the Islamic State jihadist group’s local branch ‘Sinai Province’ who originally came from Fayoum governorate, Al-Masry al-Youm cited an unnamed security official as saying.

He had moved to the volatile Sinai Province two years ago and joined IS there, the daily quoted the official as saying.

Mostafa entered into the church through a side door, where there were no security checks, before detonating his explosives belt inside a chapel, the official added.

The official said a probe has been launched into security at St Mark’s Cathedral – the headquarters of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church, and the home of its leader Pope Tawadros II.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which was condemned by Pope Francis on Sunday.

It was the worst attack on the minority Coptic Christian community since a 2011 suicide bombing killed over 20 worshippers outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria.