A Gaza-based Palestinian militant group with ties to al-Qaida orchestrated the New Year's Eve suicide bombing at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egyptian authorities say. The attack, which killed 23 people, was blamed on a group called the Army of Islam.
The group allegedly recruited Egyptians to carry out the bombing.
"We have conclusive proof of their heinous involvement in planning and carrying out such a villainous terrorist act," said Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adly.
The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported that one the masterminds of the attack confessed meeting with Army of Islam operatives in Gaza. They asked him to identify churches and synagogues which could be targeted for attack. He recommended three targets in Alexandria, and then persuaded the Gaza militants that a suicide bomber was preferable to a car bombing.
An Army of Islam spokesman denied the allegations, as did a Hamas official in Gaza. "Despite our praise to those who executed the attack, the Army of Islam has no connection to the Alexandria church bombing," the group said in a statement cited by the Los Angeles Times.
Israel's top intelligence official recently claimed that as many as 500 Gaza militants identify with al-Qaida and that some communicate with the group. The Alexandria attack is among a number of terrorist acts targeting Christians in the Middle East and Africa. Several Islamist groups and their officials tried to cast the bombing as a Jewish plot.