A bomb blast during Sunday mass at a Coptic Christian church in Cairo has killed at least 25 people and injured 49.
The attack targeted a church next to the main cathedral in Cairo, which is part of a heavily-guarded complex that also includes the residence and offices of Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Orthodox church.
Television footage showed rows of ambulances lined up outside the cathedral following the blast. A correspondent for state TV said the bomb had been detonated by remote control.
The attack comes two days after a bomb at a checkpoint on the main road to the Pyramids killed six policemen and injured three others. That blast was claimed by a militant group called Hasm, which has only emerged in recent months.
The bombing against what is essentially the seat of the Coptic Pope will raise fears among Egyptian Christians as they prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Copts make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population of 93m people. The community largely supported the ousting in 2011 of Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president who was deposed by the military after a year in office.
Pope Tawadros has been one of the most vocal supporters of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president who, as defence minister, led the overthrow of Mr Morsi, from the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Sisi delighted Christians when he visited the cathedral during Christmas mass two years in a row.
Egyptian Christians have long complained of widespread discrimination and of difficulties in obtaining official permits to build new churches. Many Christians feared that the rise of the Brotherhood would only add to their marginalisation.
Sectarian violence periodically flares up in villages, often sparked by rumours that local Christians are building a church or using a house for group prayers. Christian victims complain that they come under pressure from local authorities to accept informal settlements rather than press charges against their aggressors.
Most attacks by armed Islamist groups against Christians since the coup against Mr Morsi have been in the northern Sinai, where an affiliate of Isis has targeted the police and army. Sunday’s bombing in the heart of Cairo may signal a change in strategy for groups that usually operate on the mainland.
The church bombing was condemned by the Egyptian authorities and by Al Azhar, the main Islamic religious institution in the country.