Mustafa Abid, a highly trained specialist in mine clearance, died while detonating the bomb hidden in a bag on a roof by a church in Nasr City, just outside Cairo, on Saturday. The bomb was laid at the site just two days before Egypt’s Christmas celebrations. Egyptian Christians – known as Copts – celebrate Coptic Christmas on January 7. Coptic Christians are the largest religious minority in Egypt with a population of over 10 million, and were once the majority religious group in the state before most converted to Islam in the 640s CE.
Christians in the state have faced increased levels of violence in recent months, with a rising spate of attacks against the religious group.
The UK Foreign Office has designated Nasr City and Cairo, as well as beach holiday hotspot Sharm el Sheikh as open for Britons to travel to, but advises tourists to to keep updated with travel advice before their trip.
It is in contrast to the majority of the rest of the country which the Foreign Office advises against all travel or all but essential travel.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice states: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt.
“You should be vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the Egyptian authorities and your travel company, if you have one. There have been threats to western nationals, institutions and businesses posted on websites and social media. The main threat to foreigners is from extremists linked to Daesh-Sinai. There is a heightened threat of terrorist attacks targeting Coptic Christians from extremists linked to Daesh-Sinai in Egypt.
“You should avoid crowded places and gatherings, including in or around religious sites and during religious festivals, such as the month of Ramadan and the Christmas period (including Coptic Christmas), when terrorist groups have sometimes called for attacks.
“Take extra care over local holiday weekends, as some terrorist attacks have occurred during these times. You can find a list of local holidays on the website of the British Embassy in Cairo.
“Around 319,000 British nationals visited Egypt in 2017. Most visits are trouble free.”
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi will open Cathedral of Nativity on Sunday outside the capital today, the day before Coptic Christmas.
Mr Sisi has declared to defend Christians against extremists, but many Copts have said the state does not offer them sufficient protection against attacks.
In 2013, Mr Sisi overthrew former Egypt President Muhammed Morsi in a coup – but many Copts continue to suffer vicious attacks by Mr Morsi’s extremist supporters.
Earlier in November, 7 pilgrims were killed by gunmen in an extremist attack against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.
The group of Christians were attacked on two buses near a monastery in Minya, leaving at least seven other people wounded including children.
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed it was behind the attack.
The Foreign Office advises against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai “due to the significant increase in criminal activity and continued terrorist attacks on police and security forces that have resulted in deaths”.
Meanwhile, the FCO advises against all but essential travel to “the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq; however, we advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh; the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh (as shown on the map)”.