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Egypt

Explosion kills several near major Coptic church in Cairo

A blast near Cairo's main Coptic church has killed at least 25 people and injured at least 49 more, Egyptian security sources say. The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

At least 25 people have been killed and nearly 50 injured in an explosion during Sunday Mass near the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral (pictured above) in the Cairo district of Abassiya, the Egyptian Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The blast - possibly caused by a device containing TNT - took place in a chapel next to the main Hall of the cathedral. At least six children were among the dead, Reuters news agency quoted security officials as saying. 

"As soon as the priest called us to prepare for prayer, the explosion happened," Emad Shoukry, who was inside the chapel when the explosion occurred, told reporters.

Security officials rushed to the site of the blast and cordoned off the scene near the cathedral, which is the seat of Egypt's Coptic pope.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the cause of the explosion was also unknown. However, supporters of the "Islamic State" (IS) reportedly celebrated the attack on social media. "God bless the person who did this blessed act," Reuters news agency reported the entry on Facebook as saying.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-day mourning period following the incident. "The pain felt by Egyptians now will not go to waste, but will result in an uncompromising decisiveness to hunt down and bring to trial whoever helped - through inciting, facilitating, participating or executing - in this heinous crime, he said in a statement.

The attack comes as President el-Sisi battles Islamist insurgency in Northern Sinai, led by the Egyptian branch of IS. The group has carried out attacks in Cairo and is urging its followers to strike targets across the world as it struggles to maintain its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Two days ago, on Friday, six policemen were killed and six others injured in two roadside bomb attacks, one in Cairo and one north of the capital.

Egypt has seen several attacks since the army ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Churches belonging to the country's Christian minority have been targeted in several of the attacks.

tj/jlw (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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