Egypt's top security official accused an al-Qaida-inspired group in the Gaza Strip on Sunday of being behind the New Year's Day suicide bombing that killed 21 people outside a Coptic Christian church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
Interior Minister Habib al-Adly said conclusive evidence showed the shadowy Army of Islam in the Palestinian territory was behind the planning and execution of the attack, which sparked three days of Christian rioting in Cairo and several other cities. It was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt in more than a decade.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which added to years of strained relations between Egypt's sizeable Coptic minority and the country's Muslims. The government, eager to keep the sectarian tension under control, almost immediately blamed foreign elements for the attack.
The Army of Islam dismissed Sunday's accusations on an extremist website, and the Hamas militants who control Gaza and have themselves battled with the smaller group was also skeptical of the Egyptian claim.
Al-Adly said the group is believed to have recruited Egyptians in the planning and execution of the attack, but that this could not conceal the role it played in the "callous and terrorist" act.