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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Egypt arrests seven alleged militants tied to failed church bombing

Attack was directed at country’s large Christian minority, who make up 10 percent of the nation’s 96 million people

Egyptian police officers stand guard as others inspect the body of the attacker outside a church in Qalyubiyah. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Egyptian police officers stand guard as others inspect the body of the attacker outside a church in Qalyubiyah. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Egyptian security forces have arrested seven alleged militants suspected of involvement in a foiled church bombing outside Cairo on Saturday, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

A militant wearing a suicide vest blew himself up 250 metres from a Coptic Christian church in Qalyubiyah, a governorate north of Cairo, killing himself but no one else according to eyewitnesses and state media.

The attack was the latest directed at Egypt’s Christian minority, who make up around 10 per cent of the country’s 96 million people.

Islamist militants carried out two deadly bombings on Palm Sunday in April 2017, another blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people and a church shooting last December that killed 11.

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State news agency Mena said Saturday’s bomb attack was thwarted by a strong security presence around the church that prevented the assailant from getting too close.

An interior ministry statement identified the attacker as 29-year-old Omar Mostafa from Cairo but did not link him to a particular militant group.

No group has claimed responsibility.

The statement said the seven arrested were plotting a “series of hostilities” and that among them were two women, including one living in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Zamalek who “played a prominent role in promoting extremist ideas and providing financial support”.

Egypt has fought an insurgency led by Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in recent years, but attacks in the country’s mainland are less common.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian court sentenced five people, including the head of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, to life in prison on violence-related charges.

It is the latest of several life sentences for Mohammed Badie, who has also been sentenced to death in separate trials since his 2013 arrest. Charges have included inciting violence and planning attacks against the state.

The Cairo Criminal Court on Sunday sentenced four others to 10 to 15 years imprisonment on the same charges, related to the killing of seven people in 2013. The verdicts can be appealed.

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