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Egypt’s Coptic Christians have unleashed their fury on security forces after a bomb attack outside a church left at least 17 people dead.

They clashed with Muslims too in the northern city of Alexandria.

Authorities said a foreign-backed suicide bomber may have been behind the blast there. The Copts complain they are not being properly protected.

euronews correspondent in Egypt, Mohamed Elhamy, says major sectarian tension could now erupt in the coming days. Officials are calling for calm and a united front against terrorism.

In a televised address, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said: “We will cut off the hand of terrorism and I say to those who are plotting against us, we won our war against terrorism in the 1990s. You are making a big mistake if you think you will escape without punishment.”

Some reports put the number killed at 21 with dozens more injured.

Originally blamed on a car bomb, the blast occurred as worshippers were leaving a midnight mass.

An al Qaeda linked group in Iraq issued a threat against the Church in Egypt in November.

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