By: Tinsley Tullos
Suicide bombings took place on New Year’s Day at Saints Church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Egypt. Investigations have been narrowed down to a group of Islamic hard-liners inspired by Al-Qaida, a terrorist network brought about by Osama bin Laden. The attack took place just minutes after a midnight mass had ended. The attack killed 21 people and prompted dozens of Christian protests and riots.
Much of the blame goes towards Al-Qaida for sending Christians threats in both Egypt and Iraq. Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, accuses foreigners, while Alexandrian Governor faults Al-Qaida. Investigators chose to examine recent air passengers who may have visited Egypt to recruit members for the local team of bombers. Police are also looking at prospects of homegrown Islamic extremists inspired by Al-Qaida, but under their own control. Investigators have begun to examine two heads found at the crime scene that could have belonged to at least one of the bombers. The explosives found were thought to be locally made and filled with objects such as nails to intensify the number of fatalities.
Alexandria, once home to a mix of Muslims, Christians, Jews and foreigners, has now become home to a large group of Islamic hard-liners. These Islamic hard-liners known as Salafis do not believe in violence, but are inspired by Al-Qaida and have a large presence in Alexandria. However, it is said that Al-Qaida does not have a large presence. Police are not sure if the Salafis were the main source of attack as there is reason to believe it came from a mixture of smaller terrorist groups.
Stabbings at multiple Alexandrian churches in 2006 were followed by three days of Muslim-Christian riots and four killings. Al-Qaida vowed to attack Christians in both Iraq and Egypt after two Egyptian Christian women tried to convert to Islam only to divorce their Christian husbands. Tensions rose when Islamic hard-liners viewed the Coptic Orthodox Church as imprisoning the women and forcing them to decline their Islamic faith. Islamic hard-liners blame the two women as a reason for attacking a church in Baghdad that killed 68 people. The church attacked on New Year’s was also a Coptic Orthodox church.
Among the many witnesses, 25 people have been detained for further questioning as investigations continue. With 10% of Egypt’s mostly Islamic, Christians feel as though they have lacked adequate protection from security officials. Riots and protests proceed as police now fill the streets of Alexandria hoping to stop as many future attacks as possible.