Monday, December 12, 2016

Major suicide bombing in Egypt targeting Coptic Christians.

Ambulances carry the bodies of the dead while Egyptian Coptic Christians march. Reuters. 

A major suicide bombing in Egypt targeting the Coptic Christian minority has killed 24 people in Cairo. Reuters. The attacker was wearing a suicide vest and 4 people have been detained by Egyptian security forces. The attack happened at the center of the Coptic Christian faith, St. Mark's Cathedral. Though no one has taken credit for the attack, ISIS is the lead suspect as their followers praised the attack on social media. Christians in Egypt are usually supportive of the government but many are critical of the security at the cathedral. They claim that police did not conduct the normal security checks like they should have. Coptic Christians are 10% of the Egyptian population and often come under attack by their Muslim neighbors. They are the largest remaining Christian communities in the Middle East. 

My Comment:
Though nobody has said for sure that this was an ISIS attack, I would be willing to bet money on it being the case. ISIS has long tried to attack Christians and have been very active in Egypt. The Sinai Province of ISIS has been one of the more effective terror groups associated with the Islamic State. Despite the relative strength of the Egyptian government when compared to Syria, Iraq and Libya, ISIS has pulled of some devastating attacks there, the most notable of which was the destruction of a Russian passenger jet that killed 224 people. 

Despite several very successful terror attacks and raids, the Sinai province has been overshadowed by other branches of ISIS. Obviously Syria and Iraq get most of the attention, with Libya getting most of what is left. I would say that even ISIS's efforts in Afghanistan and the actions of their Boko Haram affiliate gets more attention then the terrorists in Egypt. 

My guess is that unlike the rest of those places, ISIS actually holds very little territory in Egypt. Though they have some, in Egypt ISIS operates much more like an underground terrorist organization as opposed to an army. Though they do conduct military operations, they are just as likely to launch a traditional terror attack instead. Indeed, if you want to see what the future for ISIS is in Iraq and Syria after they have lost most of their territory, Egypt is probably as close to a case study as you can get. 

The attack in Cairo is not surprising unfortunately. Coptic Christians have been targeted for quite some time and the cycle of revolution and counter-revolution is not helping things for them. The Egyptian government does do a lot to help Coptic Christians remain safe but they have failed in their duties several times during the revolutions. When the entire country is in chaos it is easy for people to take out their hatred on a minority, and that is what has been happening to the Copts.

 I do have to say that it is very suspicious that a suicide bomber was able to get into St. Mark's Cathedral in the first place. Given the nature of the threat you would think that only the center of the government or the Pyramids themselves would be more guarded then the cathedral. But locals are claiming that the police weren't there conducting their normal checks. 

That certainly seems suspicious but the attack apparently occurred on a Muslim holiday. It is possible that many police officers and security forces were either off duty and celebrating the holiday or had intelligence that another place was under greater threat. If so, then this was an act of almost criminal negligence, if the local's claims are correct. ISIS has long been publicly declaring that they would target Christians wherever they are found. 

I hate to say it but there is also another possibility. It is conceivable that the police responsible for security at the cathedral were involved in the attack. It is possible that ISIS paid them off or that there was someone sympathetic to their cause working with the bomber. If so, it wouldn't be too difficult to let the bomber get in. I guess it is even possible that the cops were threatened as well, but even so, nothing would excuse such a thing. My hope is that this was not the case.

I also want to point out that the Pope of the Coptic region, Theodoros II, heads his faith out of St. Mark's Cathedral. I wonder if this wasn't a failed assassination attempt at him as well as a more traditional terror attack. It wouldn't be the first time that ISIS went after a world leader. In the Paris attacks they went after Francois Hollande and only failed because of decent security at the soccer stadium he was at. I am guessing that this really was an assassination attempt and sooner or later ISIS will pull one off...

As the last remaining large Christian community in the Middle East, I fear that the fates of the Copts will be the same as so many other Christian groups in the region. The genocide of Christians at the hands of Muslims, and let's not be dishonest, that is exactly what is happening now, has gone largely unreported considering the extent of the threat. If things do not change soon I fully expect Christianity to be extinct in the Middle East in my lifetime. 

No comments:

Post a Comment