Egypt’s Coptic Churches hit by Deadly Blasts on Palm Sunday

Two blasts targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday have killed at least 42 people, officials say.
In Alexandria, an explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church killed 13 people. Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside and was unhurt, state media reported.
An earlier blast at St George’s Coptic church in Tanta killed 29 people.

So-called Islamic State (IS) says it is behind the explosions. The group has recently targeted Copts in Egypt.

Four police officers, including one policewoman, were among those killed in Alexandria, the interior ministry said. The suicide bomber blew himself up after they stopped him from entering the church.

The explosions come weeks before an expected visit by Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority. He condemned the explosions.
“I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the victims] and to the entire community,” the Pope said.

BBC Africa

Bomb Blast in Egyptian Church Kills 25

At least 25 people have been killed and 70 others injured after a bomb exploded in a Coptic church north of Cairo on Palm Sunday.

Egyptian officials say the explosive device at St. George Coptic church in Tanta was planted under a seat in the church, where it detonated in the main prayer hall.

Eyewitnesses Vivian Fareeg described a scene of carnage.

“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” she said.

The blast struck at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Cairo, just before 10:00 am local time (0800 GMT), state television reported.

Egyptian security forces had been put on alert in anticipation of such an attack.

After the first explosion, provincial governor Ahmad Deif told the state-run Nile channel: “Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up.”

General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told news agency AFP the blast took place near to the altar in the front rows.

A search is under way for any more explosives which could be in the vicinity.

Pope Francis, who is due to visit Egypt later this month, has condemned the attack.


Breaking: Most Passengers Released As Hijacked Egyptian Plane Lands In Cyprus

A man thought to be strapped with explosives hijacked an Egyptian plane on a flight between Alexandria and Cairo on Tuesday and forced it to land in Cyprus, Egyptian officials said.

After the EgyptAir plane landed at Larnaca airport, the hijacker released all the people onboard except five foreign passengers and the crew, EgyptAir said.

About 60 people, including seven crew, had been onboard, Egyptian and Cypriot officials said.

“The negotiations with the hijacker have resulted in the release of all the plane passengers with the exception of the crew and five foreigners,” the airline said in a statement.

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.

A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus’s flight information region.

The plane was an Airbus 320, Egypt’s aviation ministry said.

Egyptian state media named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian, but gave no other details about him.

Passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10 Americans, three security sources at Alexandria airport said.

Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.

Egypt’s vital tourism industry was already reeling from the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai in late October.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said it was brought down by a terrorist attack. Islamic State has said it planted a bomb on board, killing all 224 people on board.

Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East.

A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.

In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day siege had a stopover in Larnaca, where two hostages were killed.


Pharaohs Beatable In Egypt – Ighalo

Watford striker Odion Ighalo has said he believes Nigeria could still get the victory they desperately need against Egypt on Tuesday to stay on course for next year’s AFCON in Gabon. Nigeria failed to beat visiting Egypt in Friday’s must-win match in Kaduna and now travel to Alexandria on Tuesday for the reverse fixture against the seven-time African champions.

The Super Eagles thus remain two points behind group leaders Egypt after three rounds of matches in the qualifying tournament with only the overall group winners assured automatic qualification to Gabon 2017.

“Egypt got a draw in Nigeria and I believe we can still go over there to win,” declared Ighalo, who was kept quiet by the Egyptian defence on Friday for the duration of the game.

“It was disappointing that we did not concentrate till the last minute and that they didn’t give us the fair play, but we can still win on Tuesday.”

Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi said the target remains a win in Egypt. “We need the three points in Egypt. It will be a tough task, but we are very capable,” said the South Africa-based shot stopper.

“We will fight to get the victory in Egypt,” added defiant Gent forward Moses Simon, who started the game on Friday ahead of Chelsea loanee Victor Moses.

Egypt Coach Labels Super Eagles Favorites

Assistant coach of Egypt’s national team, Osama Nabih has identified three factors that could derail his side’s chances of positing creditable results against Nigeria in this month’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying matches.

Three-time champions, Nigeria will face Egypt in the first of two 2017 Afcon qualifiers at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna on March 25 with the return fixture coming up four later at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

Nabih says Nigeria are favourites for three reasons.

“The first difficulty is Nigeria is a big name in the African continent, despite failing to reach the last edition of the Africa Cup.

“Nigeria is coached by Samson Siasia who reached the Olympic Games (winning a Silver medal) first with the U-23 team.

“Moreover, Nigeria have 22-foreign based players alongside well prepared ones in the domestic Nigerian league. So Siasia possess all the tools that lead to success.

“Despite the difficulty of the Nigeria game, we are working to improve our chance of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals in the coming Nigeria game,” Nabih told Egyptian media outfit,

Egypt is leading Group G with six points, two ahead of second-placed Nigeria.

Only the group winners are guaranteed automatic qualification for the 2017 Afcon.

Africa Attracted $128bn Direct Investments In 2015 – COMESA

African countries have successfully attracted $128bn worth of foreign investment throughout 2015, an increase of 36% compared to 2014, Director of COMESA Regional Investment Agency Heba Salama said.

“African investors contributed some 30% of those investments,” Salama said, noting that Africa has become the most attractive destination for foreign investment. “The total size of African countries’ economies is expected to record $4tn by 2020, versus $2.4tn in 2016.”

The continent has entirely changed, she said, and transformed into a manufacturer of technology, having made breakthroughs in various industries and healthcare. Africa has recently attracted US, British, and Gulf investments.

Africa is no longer a place for raw materials extraction only; it has become an influential party in the technology industry. There are 370 million middle-income citizens in Africa; a fact that has contributed to the growth of the consumer base, she said.

The telecommunications and information technology and medical care witnessed significant development in Africa, where roughly 720 million people use mobile phones in Africa. All financial transactions in Kenya are carried out via mobile phone.

African countries such as Nigeria and Kenya manufacture their own vehicles.


Egyptian Government To Expand National School Feeding Programme To Reach All Public Schools

WFP in Egypt has been supporting the National School Feeding Programme (NSFP) since 1968 and is currently reaching 636,000 children with its in-school fortified date bar snacks.

The Egyptian delegation at the board meeting in Rome on Tuesday presented its plan to further expand the NSFP so as to reach all government-funded schools. WFP’s strong partnership with the Egyptian Government is crucial in supporting this expansion, as the continuing working relationship between WFP and its government counterparts has been a best practice that ensured expansion of the programme and scale-up of operations.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity developed the strategy, in coordination with the Ministries of Education, Health and Population, Agriculture and Land Reclamation and key stakeholders.

“The Government considers school feeding as one of the mechanisms that complements the development of social protection in Egypt from an equity-based approach,” said Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali.

“School feeding provides children with a nutritional meal that responds to the nutritional needs of school children, improves their cognitive capacities, and also eases some of the financial burden on their families,” she added. “The government is exerting efforts to alleviate poverty and to eventually contribute to social and economic development.”

The importance of school feeding has also been stressed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who has announced that a national school feeding strategy is a current priority on the State’s agenda.

“We are working very closely with the Egyptian Government in targeting the communities most in need in Egypt with our school-feeding activities. The date bars that WFP provides to the children in schools are fortified with vitamins and minerals that provide 25 percent of the child’s daily nutritional needs,” said Menghestab Haile, WFP Acting Country Director in Egypt.

“The in-school snacks also act as an incentive for families to enroll their children in the schools,” added Haile.

The objective of the expanded NSFP is to eventually cover all government schools, acting as both a safety net and as a sustainable investment in human capital, thus fitting into Government’s efforts to achieve ‘Education for all.’

It will also contribute to the Egyptian Government’s work towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), signed during meetings of the United Nations last September. SDG2 focuses on eliminating hunger and achieving food security by 2030.

“The Egyptian strategy on school feeding is aligned with the 2030 agenda, in particular SDG2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition. The current (Government) programme covers 13.5 million students with total government finances of 957 million Egyptian pounds,” said Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and International Security, Ambassador Hisham Badr.

The European Union is one of the major contributors, along with the United States, Germany, and private-sector members, to school-feeding programmes in Egypt.

We Shall Fear No One – Egypt Coach

Egypt national team coach Hector Cuper has claimed that his side will be fearless in their bid to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the 2018 Fifa World Cup to hold in Russia.

The Pharaohs have won the continental showpiece for a record seven times but have failed to qualify for the last three editions of the tournaments, while failing to reach the World Cup since 1990.

Group G leaders, Egypt face Nigeria in their next Afcon qualifier and the Argentine boss insists his side will not underrate any team.

“There is no such thing as easy opponents as journalists call them,” Cuper told reporters.

“We must respect any team regardless of the ranking and history, because Egypt itself has suffered in the past qualifiers because it dropped points in what you call easy games.

“I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish to avoid certain teams in the World Cup draw, but my job is to get Egypt prepared for any opponent.

“My job is to make the likes of Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, be worried that they will face us.

“I repeatedly tell my players that we can make people happy. Many people are suffering from the problems of everyday life.

“Some are poor, some are unemployed. For those people, football might be their ultimate source of joy,” he concluded.

Cuper has steered the Pharaohs to winning three of four competitive games and four of five friendly games since taking over.

NFF Insist On Kaduna For Nigeria Vs Egypt Nations Cup Qualifier

The Nigeria Football Federation has concluded plans to have a hitch free match at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna when the Super Eagles battle the Pharaohs of Egypt in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on March 23.

The football house says it is not planning to change the venue of the match despite indications that coach Sunday Oliseh wants the game to hold in Port Harcourt.

The clarification came from NFF Assistant Director, Media and Communication, Ademola Olajire on Thursday who stated clearly that the match will not be moved from the northern city.

“I want to tell you without mincing words that the Eagles versus Egypt match would take place in Kaduna and that is final as regards the venue of the match,” Olajire told reporters.

But when asked about coach’s request for the match to be played in Port Harcourt for easy connection of flights for the Super Eagles players coming from Europe, the NFF spokesman said the federation will not shift ground for the trainer.

“Well, what I can tell you is that the coach cannot tell the football federation where the match would be played. It is the prerogative of the NFF to pick match venues,” he said.