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EU condemns New Year's violence in Egypt, urges protection for Copts

An apparent Islamist suicide bombing has killed 21 people, and injured dozens more, in Alexandria, Egypt. The EU's top diplomat and Germany's foreign minister condemned the attack on a church during Mass.

A car on its side from the bomb blast with police standing nearby

The bomb exploded outside a church in Alexandria

The bombing in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria sparked anger among Christians, who clashed with police and shouted slogans against the regime of the president, as well as condemnation from Western governments

The European Union on Saturday "unreservedly" condemned a deadly New Year's Eve attack on a Coptic church in Egypt and demanded the right to gather and to worship be protected.

"There cannot be any justification for this attack," the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said in a statement, adding, "The right of Christian Copts to gather and worship freely must be protected."

Catherine Ashton

Ashton pleaded for better protection for Christian Copts

Ashton, the EU's top diplomat, said she was "deeply saddened" by the suicide bomb attack at a New Year's Eve Mass that left 21 people dead and injured 79 outside a Coptic church in Alexandria, the statement added.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also condemned the attack in a statement issued Saturday in Berlin, calling it "a brutal act against people who wanted to begin the New Year peacefully by attending Mass."

Egyptian president urges solidarity

A statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry on Saturday said the attack was likely carried out by a suicide bomber, and the nature of the attack "clearly indicates that foreign elements undertook planning and execution."

The Interior Ministry added that it was "probable that the bomb... was carried by a suicide bomber who died among the crowd."

According to the official MENA news agency, after the blast Egypt's President Hosny Mubarak urged his country's "Copts and Muslims to stand united against terrorism and those who threaten security, stability and unity of the country."

A bare-chested man raising his arm is surrounded by police in Alexandria

Christians clashed with police in the church's neighborhood

Later on Saturday, growing numbers of Christians took to the streets to vent their anger with hundreds of youths in the church's neighborhood throwing rocks and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Others demonstrators unfurled their fury at the "cowardly terrorists" and chanted: "The blood of the Copts is not cheap."

In Alexandria, the church said in a statement that the attack "constituted a dangerous escalation in sectarian incidents against the Copts."

Pope encourages Christians

The blast took place outside a church as Coptic Christians attended New Year's Eve Mass. The Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people in the mostly Muslim country.

During New Year's Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI condemned religious intolerance, especially against Christians.

The Catholic Church celebrates its World Day of Peace on January 1, and the Pope alluded to the recent increase in attack against Christians.

The Pope said humanity "cannot be allowed to become accustomed to discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance, which today strike Christians in a particular way."

Benedict also called on Christians around the world to "not give in to dismay and resignation" because of the attacks.

Second attack in Nigeria

A truck carrying bodies

The attack in Nigeria took place in a crowded market

In the Nigerian capital Abuja, a bomb that went off in a crowded market near an army barracks left four people dead and injured at least a dozen more.

The attack comes one week after a bombing on Christmas Eve in the Nigerian city of Jos that killed 80 people and wounded more than 100.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said an Islamist group was responsible for the attack and urged security forces to do everything they could to track down the bombers.

Author: Matt Zuvela, David Levitz (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Sean Sinico

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