Interior Ministry announces identity of bomber involved in Alexandria Palm Sunday church attack
Courtesy: Interior Ministry

Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced the identity of one of the suicide bombers involved in the Palm Sunday church attacks on Wednesday. 

The ministry claimed in a statement that Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdallah was behind the bombing of the St. Mark Church in Alexandria, which claimed the lives of over 17 people and injured at least 47, including police officers securing the church.

Thirty-one-year-old Abdallah, who was born in the southern city of Qena, lived in Suez and was on a list of suspects wanted in relation to a terrorist cell that masterminded the December attack on the St. Paul and St. Peter Church in Cairo.

The two Palm Sunday church attacks and the December attack were all claimed by the Province of Sinai, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt.

The ministry’s statement added that police are yet to identify the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on the St. George Church in Tanta, which also took place on Palm Sunday. The ministry listed the names of 19 suspects that are believed to be part of the terrorist cell that planned the attacks, announcing a LE100,000 reward for anyone who provides information on their whereabouts.

Security forces identified the suicide bomber by “looking into footage of the bombing site and comparing the DNA of the bomber’s remains with the DNA of his relatives,” the ministry explained. 

But the Province of Sinai identified the man who carried out the attack in Alexandria as Abu Baraa al-Masry, and in Tanta as Abu Ishaq al-Masry.

After the Province of Sinai announced the names of the two bombers, a number of media organizations began investigating them, releasing conflicting information on their identities. 

Leaked documents on the identities of members of the Islamic State in Syria suggest that 101 Egyptians have joined the ranks of the militant organization. Both Abu al-Baraa al-Masry and Abu Ishaq al-Masry appear on these lists. The information provided on the identity of Abu al-Baraa al-Masry in these leaks, however, contradicts the Interior Ministry’s Wednesday statement.

The documents were published by a website affiliated with the Syrian opposition, which were leaked by an Islamic State defector, and were independently authenticated by German intelligence, according to press reports.

Zaman al-Wasl website, affiliated with the Syrian opposition, started publishing leaked documents in March, including data on Islamic State militants, particularly foreigners. CNN quoted a spokesperson from the German police who said, “We believe that these documents could very possibly be authentic … we are taking this into consideration and security bodies are investigating them.” 

In an address on Sunday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared his intention to announce a state of emergency following the attacks, which was approved by Parliament on Tuesday. He also ordered the formation of the “Supreme Council to Combat Terrorism and Extremism,” the constitution and membership of which is not yet clear.