Worshippers Back In Egyptian Church Hit In Attack

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Grieving Christians, many clad in black, were back praying Sunday in a blood-spattered church where 21 worshippers were killed in an apparent suicide bombing, feeling betrayed by a government they say has not done enough to keep them safe. Dozens attended Sunday Mass at the Saints Church in Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, while riot police backed by armored vehicles were deployed outside.

(AP)

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Grieving Christians, many clad in black, were back praying Sunday in a blood-spattered church where 21 worshippers were killed in an apparent suicide bombing, feeling betrayed by a government they say has not done enough to keep them safe.

Dozens attended Sunday Mass at the Saints Church in Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, while riot police backed by armored vehicles were deployed outside.

The service was marked by the grief and anger felt by a congregation devastated by the attack, which took place Saturday outside the church's door about 30 minutes into the New Year.

A man observes the scene of the bomb blast from within the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt.

Many sobbed while others cried hysterically, screamed in anger or slapped themselves. "They died, they died," a woman kept saying.

Some lamented that attacks on Christians and churches often happen during usually happy occasions like Christmas and New Year. Others complained that the government was not doing enough to protect churches.

"We spend every feast in grief," said Sohair Fawzy, who lost two sisters and a niece in the attack.

People express their anger as the bodies of several victims of a car bomb attack are carried into ambulances at the Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria on Saturday. The car bombing killed 21 people as worshippers gathered to mark the New Year.

Father Maqar, who led the service did not give a sermon, preferring to express his grief with silence.

"I tell Christians to pray and pray to ease their agony," he told The Associated Press after the service.

Grim reminders of the attack remained in the church a day after the bombing. Its ground floor was stained with the blood of victims brought inside immediately after the attack. Two statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary were toppled and the benches were scattered by the impact of the blast. A "2011" sign hung on the inside of the church's door was torn apart.

Egyptian Coptic Christian, centre-right, observes the scene, wrapped in a sheet on which a Christian cross has been painted in blood outside Saints Church in Alexandria

The attack Saturday was the worst violence against Egypt's Christian minority in a decade. It sparked clashes between Christians who say the government hasn't done enough to protect them and riot police.

The Interior Ministry blamed the bombing on "foreign elements."

The Alexandria governor accused al-Qaida, pointing to the terror network's branch in Iraq, which has attacked Christians there and threatened Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christian community.

The deadly New Year's bombing at the Coptic church in Alexandria sparks clashes between angry Christians and Egyptian riot police

Egypt's government has long insisted that the terror network does not have a significant presence in the country, and it has never been conclusively linked to any attacks here. If al-Qaida were involved, it would raise the prospect of a serious new security threat within Egypt.

President Barack Obama condemned "this barbaric and heinous act" and said those behind it must be brought to justice.

AP