CAIRO MAY 23, 2017(CISA)-Egypt has referred 48 people for military trial over suspected involvement in church bombings that killed close to 70 people.
Bombings near Cairo’s Coptic Church December 2016 killed 25 people while two church bombings April 9 2017, in Alexandria and Tanta killed more than 45 people during Palm Sunday services. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
In a statement dated May 21, Public prosecutor Nabil Sadek said that some of the suspects held leadership positions in Islamic State of Iraq and Levant group (ISIS) and that the leaders formed cells in Cairo and the southern province of Qena to carry out the attacks, reported Reuters.
He noted that of the 48 suspects, 31 are in custody while 17 are still at large and said that they were suspected of undergoing training in ISIS military camps in Libya and Syria.
The suspects are also accused of killing eight police officers and wounding three at a checkpoint on January 16.
The armed group has spread violence to the mainland and increasingly targeted Christian civilians in recent months.
During his visit to Egypt in April 2017, Pope Francis condemned the religious violence saying the country has a special role in, “Vanquishing all violence and terrorism.”
“Let us say once more a firm and clear NO to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out by in the name of religion or in the name of God. It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob simple people of their present life,” he told a peace conference in Cairo April 29.
The pope also met head of Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II and visited Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral to pray for the 28 people killed during Christmas season in the blast and lay flowers in their memory.