Cairo, Dec 12: Egypt said on Monday that it had arrested four people suspected of involvement in a devastating bombing of a Cairo Coptic church, as grief-stricken mourners gathered for the funeral of the dead.
The health ministry said 25 people had been killed in the bombing at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church on Sunday. It was the deadliest attack in recent memory on the Christian minority, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking at the funeral, said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who had been identified as 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafik Mohamed Mostafa. One of the four people arrested was a woman, Sisi said, and authorities were looking for two other suspects he did not identify. Most of the victims were women, authorities have said.
The attack occurred during Sunday service at the church adjacent to Saint Mark's Cathedral, the seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II. There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Coptic Christians have been previously targeted in Egypt. Wooden coffins, each bearing a cross, were covered with the country's flag and lined up at the Saint Mary and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in the Nasr City district today.
A woman who lost two daughters in the attack cried and fell to the ground next to their coffins as other mourners prayed silently. In the streets of Nasr City, Sisi and Tawadros led black-clad mourners behind soldiers carrying the coffins of the victims. Troops marched to the sound of military music.
"This blow has caused us a lot of pain, but never will we let it break us," Sisi said. Pope Tawadros II said: "We are hurting from this evil." Yesterday's blast was the worst attack on the Coptic Christian community since a 2011 suicide bombing killed more than 20 worshippers outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria.
The health ministry said in a statement late today the death toll had risen to 25 after a 40-year-old woman died of extensive injuries. Copts have faced persecution and discrimination dating back to the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011.