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Germany condemns deadly attack on Egyptian church

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined a host of world leaders who have condemned the New Year's Day attack on a Coptic Christian church in Egypt. In Germany, Copts say they feel threatend by Islamists as well.

Egyptian Christians attending to the coffins of the bombing victims

21 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in Saturday's attack

Chancellor Merkel said in a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday that she experienced "horror and revulsion" when hearing the news of the New Year's Day bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, in which 21 people died and dozens were injured.

"The German government condemns this barbaric terrorist attack, in which Christians - but also Muslims - lost their lives, to the utmost," Merkel wrote.

The deadly attack has prompted widespread condemnation across the political spectrum in Europe.

In a letter to Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, French President Nicolas´Sarkozy wrote that "nobody should be worried or afraid for their life in exercising their fundamental right to freely practice their faith."

Italy's foreign minister Franco Frattini urged his European Union counterparts to respond forcefully to the attack and to discrimination of Christians throughout the world.

"It tragically confirms that religious intolerance, above all against Christians, has taken on an intensity and dimension that is very serious and alarming, and absolutely unacceptable," Frattini said.

"The moment for a powerful and clear political response by all governments that cherish human rights, of which religious freedom is a basic part, has come."

Time to 'combat the demons of intolerance'

Coptic Christians celebrating mass in Germany

Germany's Coptic Christians have also received threats

The parliamentary human rights spokesman of Germany's Green party, Volker Beck, said "the condemnation of such attacks is not enough. Egypt and other states must effectively combat the demons of religious intolerance."

Contemplating measures that could be taken, Stefan Mueller, the parliamentary leader of Germany's Christian Social Union, said it was time to tie development aid to the question of whether or not Christians are persecuted by the state or groups in a particular country.

"There can be no financial aid to countries in which Christians cannot practice their faith unhindered," Mueller said.

The CSU parliamentarian also said he expected Muslims in Germany "to more clearly formulate their disgust, as has been done around the world."

The deputy party leader of Germany's governing Christian Democrats, Annette Schavan, called on Islamic leaders around the world to take a clear stand against religious violence.

"Muslim authorities in Cairo and elsewhere must clearly distance themselves from all forms of violence in the name of religion," she said. "There can be no peace among peoples without peace between their religions," Schavan emphasized.

Copts in Germany get threats

Germany's Coptic Christian community has said that it had also received threats from radical Muslims.

In a report appearing this Monday in the mass-circulation daily Bild, Coptic bishop Anba Damian said the group had faced an upsurge of threats during the Christmas holidays.

"The Internet is full of threats of this kind against us. The police have alerted us several times against attacks by radical Muslims," Damian told the newspaper. The bishop said he had written to the German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to ask for protection.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, angry Christians gathered inside the gates of Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral and heckled officials who came to pay their condolences to Church leaders and the families of the victims.

Demonstrators chased the state minister for economic development, Osman Mohammed Osman, to his car and pelted him with rocks, while others clashed with police standing outside the gates.

Egyptian state media has reported that the authorities are currently holding seven people for questioning in connection with the suicide attack and tightened security around churches across the country.

Author: Gregg Benzow, Gabriel Borrud (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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