Egyptian Muslims and Christians raise a copy of the Quran and the Bible in Shubra district of Cairo, late Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 to protest against the terrorist attack on a church of Alexandria. The raised t-shirt says "no, no to terrorism". (Photo: AP/Ahmed Ali)
Following mixed reports on the possible source of the church attack in Alexandria on New Year's eve, Major General Mohamed Megahed, an Egyptian expert on international terrorism and deputy director of the National Center for Middle East Studies, said that the available information indicates a strong possibility that foreign entities are involved in the church attacks, just as President Hosni Mubarak had pointed out in his speech on Saturday.
In an an interview with Ahram Online, Megahed said that although the available information still needs further verification and confirmation, the Ministry of Interior is currently looking for 15 suspected foreign elements that are believed to have entered Egypt through its eastern borders from Iraq en route to the Maghreb countries. Megahed added that investigations reveal the presence of random elements related to Al-Qaeda.
Maj. Gen. Megahed said that the attackers are believed to have been of North and sub-Sahran African origin, who have been receiving training in Iraq, under Al-Qaeda's Iraq faction. He noted that the Al-Qaeda faction in Iraq had previously made clear through its website, Shemoukh Al-Islam, or 'Glory of Islam', that they will be targeting the Two Saints Church and several other Egyptian churches. The declaration was also supported by other factions in the Maghreb countries. He insisted however that there were no Al-Qaeda branches, nor any of its dormant cells, operating inside Egypt.
Al-Qaeda, which is now beseiged in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq, is believed to have committed the attack as a means of asserting its presence, and proving its continued ability to penetrate a strongly secured state. Megahed said. He pointed out that it was common practice for the group to conduct small and medium scale attacks to generate media attention.
Details of who might have been behind the bombing on the Two Saints Church were initially confused. Mixed reports emerged due to the absence of license plates on a car near the bombing, seemingly indicating that the car itself may have been the source of the explosion. Evidence later confirmed that the car was not in fact the source, and details of the case have since begun to clarify, the expert said.
General Sameh Seif, who is supervising the investigation, told Ahram Online that it is currently believed that one, or several, suicide bombers were responsible for the explosion. Thirteen cars present at the scene of the attack are being investigated as possible transport vehicles used by the attackers. Security personnel present at the time of the attack are also being interrogated. Forensic reports of the 18 bodies found at the scene of the attack have not revealed any details regarding the identity of the offenders, and no DNA maps are available, he said.