Egypt Says Palestinian Group behind Church Bombing

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly said on Sunday that a Palestinian group was behind the New Year's church attack in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria that killed more than 20 people.

"The Palestinian Islamic Army, which has links to Al-Qaida, is behind the attack on the al-Qiddissin church in Alexandria," Adly said in a speech to mark Police Day, carried live on state television.

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the church in the Mediterranean city as worshippers emerged from a New Year's Eve mass. The official MENA news agency puts the death toll at 23, with scores more wounded. Previously, the death toll stood at 21.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which followed threats to Egypt's Copts from the Al-Qaida-linked group in Iraq that claimed an October 31 attack on a Baghdad church.

Egypt's Christians, who make up 10 percent of the 80-million population, have been the target of several attacks and have repeatedly accused the authorities of systematic discrimination.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Army denied on Sunday involvement in the Alexandria attack.

"The Islamic Army has no relation, whether close or distant, to the attack on the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt," a spokesman for the group, who gave his name as Abu Muthanna, told AFP.

"The Mossad (Israeli intelligence) was responsible for the attack."