Islamic State releases video of man alleged to be responsible for December church bombing
Photograph: Roger Anis

The Islamic State released a video on Sunday featuring a statement by the man they allege is responsible for the attack on the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo last December, which killed at least 28 people.

The group claimed responsibility for the December 11 bombing two days after it was carried out, however doubts were initially raised about the veracity of these claims.

The video features a voice-over claiming that a man named Abou Abdallah al-Masry detonated an explosive belt inside the Church, which is consistent with the statement issued by the Islamic State two days after the attack which named Masry as the attacker.

The footage shows a masked man in combat attire. Identified by the video as al-Masry, potentially a nom de guerre, he says “we will come with explosives” to free their “prisoners of war,” pledging that Cairo will be “liberated very soon.

Shortly after the bombing, Egyptian authorities blamed student Mahmoud Shafiq Mostafa for the attack. Mostafa had previously been arrested and detained on protest-related charges.

The video also includes footage of the bombing taken from security cameras, and scenes from the aftermath previously aired on Egyptian television. Primarily focusing on anti-christian propaganda, it also shows two other masked men, dressed in combat uniforms, making threats and airing anti-Christian sentiments. They are identified as Abou Yehia al-Masry and Abou Zubair al-Masry.

The St. Peter and St. Paul Church is adjacent to the Abbasseya Coptic Orthodox Church, the main site of worship and leadership for Egypt’s largest religious minority.

Where previous videos attributed the attack to the Islamic State’s Egyptian branch Province of Sinai, Sunday’s video opened with text reading “Islamic State, Egypt.”

This was not the first bombing carried out by the Islamic State in Cairo. The group claimed responsibility for detonating a car bomb in front of the Italian consulate in downtown Cairo in July 2015, killing one. However this statement credits the attack to Province of Sinai, rather than Islamic State, Egypt.

Coptic Christians have increasingly become a target for Islamist groups in North Sinai, where the majority of Province of Sinai attacks are carried out. The murder of three Copts in the space of one week has raised concerns about the group’s increasing focus on them as a secondary target.  The majority of attacks focus primarily on Egypt’s Armed Forces.The increase in violence against the Coptic community in the area has forced many to consider leaving their homes.

One of the most prominent incidents of the persecution in past years was the displacement of dozens of Coptic families from Rafah in September 2012, when masked men attacked Coptic-owned shops and houses and distributed written warnings demanding they leave the city within 48 hours.

The number of civilians killed by the Islamic State in Egypt, according to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, increased from 15 at the end of 2015 to 23 in the first quarter of 2016. The majority of the attacks continue to target security forces, with the first half of 2016 witnessing 48 attacks per month compared to 26 per month in the last six months of 2015.


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