Islamic State claims responsibility for Cairo attack on Copts, vows more carnage

A suicide bomber, identified by the pseudonym Abu Abdallah al-Masri, “got in between the crowd" and detonated his explosive belt. IS vows more attacks against "every infidel and apostate in Egypt, and everywhere.”

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack on 11 December against a Cairo church, located next to the Cathedral of St Mark, see of the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, which killed 25 people and wounded another 59.

IS (also known as Daesh by its Arabic acronym) issued an official statement to that effect circulated by social media. 

Yesterday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who attended the victims’ funeral, pointed the finger at the Muslim Brotherhood for the moral and material responsibility of the massacre.

According to the president, a 22-year-old man, Mahmoud Shafik Mostapha, carried out the attack. He was identified from DNA traces found at the scene. Four other people were arrested and two are wanted in connection with the incident.

From their exile in Qatar, Muslim Brotherhood leaders denied any involvement and rejected the accusations.

Now, with its statement, IS adds a twist to an already confused picture, by claiming responsibility for the attack, something it has done in the past with other events in Egypt and elsewhere in the world.

In its announcement, IS identified the suicide bomber by the pseudonym Abu Abdallah al-Masri who "got in between the crowd" and detonated his explosive belt.

The church attack is the deadliest against civilians by the terrorist group in Egypt since a plane exploded in flight in October 2015.

The aircraft had just taken off from Sharm el Sheikh with 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists returning from a holiday in the famous seaside resort.

IS claimed responsibility for the carnage, but Egyptian authorities dismissed it as "propaganda”.

Now, in its latest claim, the group said it would continue attacks against "every infidel and apostate in Egypt, and everywhere." Meanwhile, survivors, priests and worshippers, are telling their stories.

Cynthia Michel, 14, is one of the few people who saw the attacker’s face. She is currently in hospital recovering after undergoing surgery for the injuries she sustained in the blast.

"I was very surprised to see a man with something on his head and a big belly,” she said, “walking into the church in the women's section. Then he opened his jacket, and after that I did not see or hear anything.”

Fr Antonios Mounir, who was leading the service, spoke for the first time since the attack. "The door next to the main entrance was the easiest for the bomber,” the priest said. “No one saw him, neither the deacons, nor the volunteers who work for the church."

A worshipper “recognised the author of the attack when he saw his picture in the media,” the clergyman added, and “he went to the offices of the Prosecutor General to make his statement."

The previous day he had "met" the suicide bomber, said Fr Mounir, who had scouted the area on the pretext of "buying books. Since there were no books in that room, he asked to go and pray in the church but his request was denied."

(Loula Lahham contributed to this article)