The Islamic State claimed credit for the Dec. 11 bombing in the women’s section at the main Coptic church in Cairo, Egypt. The attack, which killed 24 Christians, is the latest against Egypt’s Coptic Church.
The Islamic State identified the suicide bomber as “Abu Abdullah al-Masri,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the group’s Arabic-language statement.
Al Masri “plunged amidst the gathering of Crusaders and detonated his explosive belt, killing and wounding…80 of them.” Press reports indicate that 24 civilians, including 22 women, were killed and 49 more were wounded in the blast, which took place during Sunday Mass.
Additionally, the Islamic State threatened further attacks in its “war on polytheism,” meaning Christians and Jews, in Egypt and elsewhere.
“Let all the disbelievers and apostates in Egypt and everywhere know that our war on polytheism is ongoing, and that the State of the Caliphate – with permission from Allah the Almighty – will continue to spill their blood and grill their bodies, so that there is no sedition and the religion is all for Allah,” the jihadist group stated, according to SITE.
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which was a branch of al Qaeda and the forerunner of the Islamic State, had a history of attacking Christian churches. In Nov. 2010, the ISI massacred at least 30 Christians during a hostage situation at a church in Baghdad. The organization stated that they murdered the Christians to avenge the treatment of Muslim women by Copts in Egypt. Jihadists claim that Copts kidnap Muslim women and force them to convert to Christianity. However, these claims have not been substantiated.
“Upon guidance issued by the Ministry of War in the Islamic State of Iraq in support for our downtrodden Muslim sisters that are held captive in the Muslim land of Egypt and after accurate planning and selection, an angry group of righteous jihadists attacked a filthy den of polytheism,” according to a statement that was released shortly after the attack and obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal. “This den has been frequently used by the Christians of Iraq to fight Islam and support those who are fighting it. With the grace of God, the group was able to hold captive all those in the den and take over all its entrances.”
Two months later, on New Years Day 2011, jihadists detonated a car bomb attack outside a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt. Twenty-one Christians were killed in that assault.
The Islamic State has also targeted Copts in Libya. In February 2015, the jihadists released a video of the mass execution of 21 Christians, saying the slaughter was carried out to “avenge the kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church.”