Funeral masses and processions were held yesterday for the victims of terror attack on Cairo’s Coptic cathedral. Pope Tawadros II “called the dead martyrs and sought to heal any sectarian friction caused by the attack, saying it ‘is not just a disaster for the church but a disaster for the whole nation.’ He also condemned attacks against the security forces,” according to Reuters. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi joined mourners, saying the attack was against the state as a whole.
Attack carried out by suicide bomber: The president vowed to deliver justice and reiterated that the entire nation was joining the families in three days of mourning. El Sisi also announced that the attack was conducted by a 22-year-old suicide bomber and that four co-conspirators were arrested. One of those apprehended, and the alleged mastermind of the group, had apparently received instructions directly from the Ikhwan leadership in Qatar, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry last evening. The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports the suspected suicide bomber had a 2014 run-in with police, citing as its source a man identifying himself as the bomber’s lawyer.
Calls for resignation of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar entered the mainstream yesterday, with Rep. Mohamed Emara, an independent from the Delta governorate of Beheira, giving voice to a call that had largely been confined to social media.
We’re not saying this presages a thaw in relations, but Saudi’s King Salman Ben Abdul Aziz was one of the world leaders to offer condolences onthe attack, Al Mal reported.
Constitutional and legislative changes in the offing? In response to the attack, House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal issued a rallying cry in parliament yesterday, saying MPs will do their part in the fight, which could include amending the constitution. Mohamed El Sewedy, leader of the Support Egypt coalition (the largest in Parliament), is pushing for amending the penal code and restricting appeals on terrorism charges, Al Shorouk reports. Sources in the House tell Al Borsa that there are popular calls to place all churches, in addition to key infrastructure, under the protection of the armed forces, which would place an attack on them under the jurisdiction of military tribunals. Bahaa’ Abu Shaqa, chair of the House Legislative Committee, said defendants charged under the Anti-Terror Act should be limited to just one appeal. Separately, an MP said he is drafting a private-member’s bill “proposing amending a terrorism-related law to transfer terror cases to military tribunals.”
Talking heads of the Western think-tank class struggled for relevance in the wake of the attack, but Mokhtar Awad nails it on the head: If you read nothing else on the attacks from a security point of view, read his “Copts Bear Brunt of a Shift in Terror Strategy in Egypt.”
Human Rights Watch says “Egyptian authorities should bring to justice those responsible for the violence and take measures to properly protect the Coptic community from such attacks.” HRW’s MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson said “the egregious attack … should be recognized as an attack on all Egyptians.”
HRW’s Ken Roth kicks over hornet’s nest: Whitson’s comments came as remarks from HRW boss Ken Roth incensed a number of prominent Twitter commentators. The always on-point Maged Atiya (tweeting as @salamamoussa) wrote: “It is simply shameful that @KenRoth head of @hrw does the wet work of anti Copts with such glee” in response to Roth’s tweet that “Egypt’s Copts discover after backing Sisi’s coup that his persecution isn’t limited to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Roth’s comment that “If bombing Coptic church was work of Islamist militants, that’s a horrible, lawless way to fight Sisi’s repression” earned him a rebuke from commentator Samuel Tadros that it is “Hard not to conclude that @KenRoth is an anti Coptic bigot.”
Making the rounds of Twitter last night were two essays by prominent Coptic commentators abroad, including “How Not to Understand Egypt’s Sectarianism” by Paul Sedra and Maged Atiya’s suggestion it is time that a national corps be created to guard churches.