By Kamran Bokhari
A Dec. 11 bombing at a major Christian church in Cairo killed some 25 people and wounded at least 50 others. The blast occurred at a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian Church and home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II. Early reports suggest that a remote-detonated device, rather than a suicide bomber, caused the explosion. This attack comes two days after a bomb elsewhere in Cairo killed six policemen, an assault claimed by a little-known group called Hasm that Egyptian officials say is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned in August 2014. However, after the church bombing, Hasm issued a communiqué saying it was not involved in that attack, and that, on principle, it does not kill women, children, the elderly or worshippers.
The target suggests that some form of Islamists likely could be the perpetrators of this latest attack. The Islamic State (IS) has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in Egypt and is known for deliberately targeting minorities – mostly religious. Regardless of who is actually behind this bombing on Egypt’s main Coptic religious facility, we have the broader phenomenon of jihadis disproportionately attacking minority communities in Muslim-majority countries. These include non-Muslim citizens (largely Christians), but because the minority Muslim sects (Shiites, Ismailis, Ahmadis, Sufis, etc.) are more numerous, they have been the focus of the jihadist ire.