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Egypt identifies “terrorist cell” linked to failed church bombing

The militant was wearing an explosive belt, and tried to mingle with worshippers gathered at the church

Cairo: Egyptian security forces have arrested seven alleged militants suspected of involvement in a foiled church bombing outside Cairo on Saturday, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

Ministry in a statement revealed the identity of the suicide bomber, and is said to have arrested six others involved in the case, including two women.

The attacker has been identified as 29-year-old Omar Mostafa, a member of a terrorist cell that was planning to carry out a number of attacks in Cairo, including the one on the Virgin Mary Church on Saturday.

One of the women identified was living in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Zamalek and “played a prominent role … in promoting extremist ideas and providing financial support”.

No group has so far claimed responsibility of the attack.

The militant was wearing an explosive belt, and tried to mingle with worshippers gathered at the church for a service commemorating the annual Fast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

According to the ministry’s statement, police found weapons and ammunition, as well as cash and documents on manufacturing explosives, at the bomber’s apartment.

The six other suspects were also found with a number of explosives and ammunition in their apartments.

Egypt’s police have been bolstering security at churches nationwide to ensure the safety of Christian worshippers, who have been the target of a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.

Islamist militants carried out two deadly bombings on Palm Sunday in April 2017 and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people, while a church shooting last December killed eleven.

State news agency MENA said Saturday’s bomb attack was thwarted by a strong security presence around the church that prevented the assailant from getting too close. So he blew himself up 250 meters from the church, killing himself but no one else according to eyewitnesses and state media.

Egypt has fought an insurgency led by Daesh in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in recent years, but attacks in the country’s mainland are less common.

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