In Brief

Cairo Coptic church bombing kills at least 25

Egypt starts three days of national mourning after Christians are targeted during Sunday mass

At least 25 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a bomb blast at a chapel next to Cairo's main Coptic cathedral.

The explosion took place during Sunday mass at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church, which lies adjacent to St Mark's Cathedral, the headquarters of the Christian Coptic Orthodox church and the home of its leader, Pope Tawadros II. A three-day period of mourning has been declared.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be punished.

He added: "Vicious terrorism is being waged against the country's Copts and Muslims. Egypt will emerge stronger and more united from this situation."

Coptic Christians, one of the earliest Christian groups outside the Holy Land, make up about ten per cent of Egypt's population.

The bombing is the deadliest suspected attack on the country's Christian minority in recent memory. However, Mohamad Elmasry, an associate professor of media and cultural studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera the "barbaric attack against Coptic Christians is not an aberration".

He said: "[It] represents the continuation of a cycle of violence that has continued unabated since Egypt's July 2013 military coup."

Copts have often complained of persecution and discrimination from Egypt's Muslim majority "and violence between Muslim and Christian communities has repeatedly broken out in poor and rural areas, often triggered by land disputes", says The Guardian.

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility, "but jihadists in Sinai have targeted Christians before, as well as Muslims they accuse of working with the government", says Sky News.

In 2013, Copt churches and homes of members were attacked in retaliation for the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and the security forces' subsequent deadly dispersal of his supporters from two squares in Cairo, which claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Human Rights Watch claimed more than 40 Coptic churches were attacked nationwide after the crackdown.

A 2011 suicide bombing also killed 21 worshippers outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria.

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