A police bomb disposal officer was killed while attempting to dismantle a bomb outside a Cairo church on Saturday, Agence France Press reports. Five other people were injured, including two other police officers.
The dead police officer in the bombing in Cairo has been identified as Major Mustafa Abid.
The blast took place just ten yards from the Coptic church in Cairo’s Nasr City.
Coptic officials have offered their condolences to the family of the dead police officer:
Condolences to family and colleagues of explosives officer Mustafa Obeid, who died in the line of duty defusing bomb in a suspect bag near church in #Cairo outskirts. Praying safety for those celebrating the #NativityFeast in our churches across Egypt, and those keeping them safe
— Archbishop Angaelos ن (@BishopAngaelos) January 5, 2019
The attack came just hours before President Sisi was set to inaugurate with Pope Tawadros a new Coptic cathedral in the new administrative capital city 28 miles east of Cairo on Sunday.
Christmas celebrations for most Eastern Orthodox churches, including Egypt’s Coptic church, begin Sunday night (their Christmas Eve). Security has been increased around churches and other religious sites for Christmas services.
Earlier this week President Sisi was condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood for the government’s role in building the new cathedral.
Extremism. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (ruled Egypt before they were rightly banned) criticises President Sisi for building churches, renovating synagogue & falsely accuses him of “demolition of mosques”. If that’s not incitement against Christians & Jews, I don’t know what is. pic.twitter.com/vUcKDLK4Bp
— Ghanem Nuseibeh (@gnuseibeh) January 3, 2019
Since launching a massive campaign last January, the Egyptian government has waged a large-scale effort to uproot a terrorist insurgency that began after the popular uprising against Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government and his removal as president in July 2013.
Military and police officials, the Christian community, and tourists have been the main targets of the ongoing insurgency.
Three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian tour guide were killed and 12 others were injured on December 28 by an improvised explosive device (IED) that struck their tour bus near the Pyramids in Giza. No group has claimed credit for that bombing.
More than 100 Coptic Christians have been killed in terror incidents the past two years.
As I reported here at PJ Media, the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt took credit for an attack on Coptic pilgrims returning from a child’s baptism at the St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery outside Minya in Upper Egypt on November 2. Seven were shot and killed — six from one family — and 14 were injured.
That attack took place at nearly the same location as a previous shooting attack in which 31 Coptic pilgrims were killed in May 2017.
Over the past year there have been a series of mob attacks on churches in Upper Egypt. Up until two years ago when a new law was passed easing restrictions on the construction of new churches, it was near impossible for churches to receive licenses to repair or build new churches. Even since, the government has been slow in processing approvals.
And yet the new Coptic cathedral set to be inaugurated Sunday, built by the military, will be the largest cathedral in the Middle East, seating 8,200.
🌇 #مشاريع_مصر 🇪🇬|
The first peak at the 63,000 square meter Cathedral of the Birth of Christ..
Construction site at the New Administration Capital, Cathedral of the Birth of Christ, Cairo, Egypt pic.twitter.com/xFHxBH7Xxl
— مشاريع مصر Egypt (@EgyProjects) January 5, 2019
Christian churches have repeatedly been targets of Islamic terror groups going back to the January 1, 2011, suicide bombing of a church in Alexandria that killed 23.
Ten people were killed, including two police officers, when gunmen opened fire outside a church in Helwan, south of Cairo, on December 29, 2017. The dead police officers were guarding the church.
Two suicide bombings in Alexandria and Tanta during Palm Sunday services killed 49 Christians in April 2017. Pope Tawadros was leading mass at the church in Alexandria when the bomber struck, but he had been stopped outside the church by security.
Another suicide bomber struck during Advent services at the Two Saints Church directly beside St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo in December 2016. St. Mark’s Cathedral is the seat of Pope Tawadros and the Coptic Church. Twenty-nine were killed in that terror attack — all but one women and girls.
I was given permission to visit that church as it was still undergoing repairs just a few months after that bombing:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) May 9, 2017
I’ve also reported here at PJ Media on my trip visiting churches and monasteries in Upper Egypt that were destroyed in a nationwide terror campaign by the Muslim Brotherhood in August 2013.
— PJ Media (@PJMedia_com) August 14, 2016
Undoubtedly, with Saturdays’s bombing and the inauguration of the new cathedral Sunday, security at churches throughout the country will be tight.
Previous coverage of attacks on the Coptic Christian community in Egypt:
Nov. 2, 2018: Gunmen Target Coptic Christian Pilgrims in Upper Egypt