A Palestinian group has denied allegations that it was behind the New Year's Day bomb attack on an Egyptian church that killed more than 20 people, rejecting claims from Cairo that it had orchestrated the attack.
More than 20 people were killed in the suicide bombing
A Palestinian group has denied allegations that it was behind the New Year's Day bomb attack on a church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria that killed 23 people, immediately rejecting Sunday's claims from Cairo that it was involved in the attack.
"The Army of Islam has no connection to the church attack in Egypt, though we praise those who did it," said a spokesman for the Palestinian group.
Egypt's Coptic minority face discrimination
Earlier on Sunday, Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly accused the Palestinian group of orchestrating the attack.
"The Palestinian Islamic Army, which has links to Al-Qaeda, is behind the attack on the al-Qiddissin church in Alexandria," Adly said in a speech carried live on state television.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak congratulated the police "for finding the perpetrators of the terrorist act in Alexandria."
Addressing senior officials and members of the police force, Mubarak said the attack had tried to target Egypt's unity and firmly rejected foreign calls for the protection of the country's Christians as "interference."
"The latest attack in Alexandria, represents a pitiful attempt to bring [terrorism] back to Egypt … in a bid to stir division between the Copts and the Muslims," he said.
Copts in crisis
On January 1, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the church as worshippers emerged from a New Year's Eve Mass. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The day after the attack, Mubarak said the act was carried out by foreigners.
"Terrorism is alien to our society, and has foreign fingerprints," he reiterated on Sunday. "We will not allow terrorism to shake our stability."
The Egyptian leader also lashed out at Western countries who have called for more protection for the country's Coptic Christian minority.
Egypt's Christians, who make up 10 percent of the 80-million population, have been the target of several attacks and have repeatedly accused the authorities of systematic discrimination.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac