The form Mostárabes is also found. The derivation of the word is not quite certain, but the best theory seems to be that it is musta’rab, the participle of the tenth form of the verb ’araba, and that it means a naturalized Arab or one who has adopted Arab customs or nationality, an Arabized person. Some, with less probability, have made it a Latin or Spanish Compound, Mixto-Arabic. The meanings, which are not far apart, applied entirely to the persons who used the rite in its later period, and not to the rite itself, which has no sign of any Arabinfluence. The names Gothic, Toledan, Isidorian, have also been applied to the rite.
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) - A powerful bomb, possibly from a suicide attacker, exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as a crowd of worshippers emerged from a New Years Mass early Saturday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 80 in an attack that raised suspicions of an al-Qaida role.
The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by al-Qaida militants in Iraq to attack Egypt's Christians. A direct al-Qaida hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as the government of President Hosni Mubarak has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al-Qaida in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.
The bombing enraged Christians, who often complain of discrimination at the hands of Egypt's Muslim majority and accuse the government of covering up attacks on their community. In heavy clashes Saturday afternoon, crowds of Christian youths in the streets outside the Saints Church and a neighboring hospital hurled stones at riot police, who opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Egypt has seen growing tensions between its Muslim majority and Christian minority - and the attack raised a dangerous new worry, that al-Qaida or militants sympathetic to it could be aiming to stoke sectarian anger or exploit it to gain a foothold.
Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the New Year's Mass at the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.
"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over - legs and bits of flesh."
Blood splattered the facade of the church, as well as a mosque directly across the street. Bodies of many of the dead were collected from the street and kept inside the church overnight before they were taken away Saturday by ambulances for burial.
Some Christians carried white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the blood of the victims.
Health Ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21, with 79 wounded. It was not immediately known if all the victims were Christians. It was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999.
Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed vehicle parked about four meters (yards) from the church.
But the Interior Ministry said later in a statement that there was no sign that the epicenter was a car. That "makes it likely that the explosives ... were carried on the person of a suicide attacker who died with the others," it said.
Around six severely damaged vehicles remained outside the church, but there was little sign of a crater that major car bombs usually cause. Bits of flesh were stuck to nearby walls.
Both car bombs and suicide attackers are hallmark tactics of al-Qaida, and they have rarely been used in Egypt. Most recent attacks on Christians or churches have been by less sophisticated means - mainly shootings.
The last major terror attacks in Egypt were between 2004-2006, when bombings - including some suicide attackers - hit three tourist resorts in the Sinai peninsula, killing 125 people. Those attacks raised allegations of an al-Qaida role, but the governments strongly denied a connection, blaming them on local extremists.
Hours after the blast, President Mubarak went on state TV and vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."
Aiming to prevent sectarian divisions, he said it was attack against "all Egypt" and that "terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."
But Christians at the church unleashed their fury at authorities they often accuse of failing to protect them. Soon after the explosion, angry Christians clashed with police, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the mosque across the street, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.
Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But in the afternoon, new violence erupted in a street between the church and the affiliated Saints Hospital. Some of the young protesters waved kitchen knives. One, his chest bared and a large tattoo of a cross on his arm, was carried into the hospital with several injuries from rubber bullets.
"Now it's between Christians and the government, not between Muslims and Christians," shouted one Christian woman at the hospital.
(AP) Egyptian Christians grieve as they carry a covered body of one of the victims after a car exploded...
In a reflection of the deepening mistrust between Egypt's communities, many in the crowd believed police would not fully investigate the bombing, reflecting Christians' suspicions that authorities often overlook attacks on their community.
Archbishop Arweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, said police want to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they can write it off as a lone attacker. He denounced what he called a lack of protection.
"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.
Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.
Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed al-Qaida, pointing to recent threats by the terror group to attack Christians in Egypt.
He offered no evidence to support his claim, but a recent spate of attacks blamed on al-Qaida against Christians in Iraq have an unusual connection to Egypt.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says it is attacking Christians there in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, prohibited by the Orthodox Coptic Church.
The women have since been secluded by the church, prompting Islamic hard-liners to hold frequent protests in past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says its attacks on Christians would continue until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will.
Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s, that peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a pharoanic temple in Luxor. But the government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown, and militant violence all but stopped until the bombings in the Sinai reports of Dahab, Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh in the mid-2000s.
When Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his 78-year-old wife Janet Mekha answered the doorbell Thursday night, the bomb exploded, killing them, Mekha's brother told The Associated Press on Friday. Three other people, apparently passers-by, were wounded.
"When I went there, I found both of them cut to pieces near the gate of their house," said the brother, Falah al-Tabbakh, 47, who had been at a funeral nearby in the eastern Baghdad district of Ghadir. He rushed to his sister's house after neighbors called him, and they told him what happened, he said.
The bombing was among a string of seemingly coordinated attacks Thursday evening that targeted at least seven Christian homes in various parts of Baghdad that wounded at least 13 other people, a week after al-Qaida-linked militants renewed their threats to attack Iraq's Christians.
The attacks are the latest since an Oct. 31 siege of a Baghdad church by al-Qaida killed 68 worshippers, terrifying the minority community, whose numbers have already fallen dramatically in the past seven years of violence in Iraq.
The repeated attacks have infuriated many Christians who question why the government seems unable to protect them despite its repeated promises since the church siege to do so.
"The Christians in Iraq are always targeted because they do not have militias and they do not believe in the power of weapons," said Father Nadhir Dakko, a priest at St. George Chaldean Church, who performed the funeral service for the slain couple.
Speaking to reporters after the service, Dakko railed against what he called the government's inability to "establish peace and security" for all Iraqis, Muslim and Christian. All Iraqis are suffering, he said, but the situation is harder for Christians because they are a minority.
"Iraq is bleeding every day," he said.
The government, while calling on Christians not to flee Iraq, has beefed up security around churches and dispatched extra police patrols in Christian neighborhoods. They've placed concrete blast walls around the Our Lady of Salvation church where the siege occurred.
Still, authorities and Christian leaders have acknowledged that security forces cannot protect every single house, and asked Christians to be vigilant. Violence has gone down across the country the past two years, but the government still struggles to protect even its own police forces.
Iraq's violence has struck all its various religious groups, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. But the ranks of Christians have been particularly depleted, in part because their numbers were not large to begin with — estimated at 1.4 million before the war. Now an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 Christians are left, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.
The Ghadir district where the elderly couple were killed shows the signs of the flight. In the past its population was predominantly Christian, with some Sunni Muslims. Both communities have fled in large numbers since 2003, and many houses have since been bought by Shiites from the nearby Shiite stronghold of Sadr City.
Al-Tabbakh said his sister's children had left Iraq even before 2003, but that his sister and her husbands were holdouts, determined to stay in their homes.
"Today, we stand next to two martyrs whose crime was that they preferred to stay in their country," Dakko, the priest, told the congregation in the funeral service.
Christians have been targeted in the past. But the October church siege was the deadliest ever, and it was followed by several dire warnings from al-Qaida's branch in Iraq that it intends to directly target the community. That prompted several thousand Christians to flee Baghdad for the relative safety of the Kurdish-run north in the past two months.
Father Mukhlis, a priest at Our Lady of Salvation church, the target of the October siege, said as many as 12 violent incidents occurred against Christian homes across the capital Thursday night.
Police officials confirmed seven attacks against Christian homes. They and hospital officials confirmed the deaths of Rahim and Mekha and 13 wounded in the various attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In the other attacks Thursday night, four bombings targeting Christians wounded six people. A stun grenade landed inside a Christian house in the Dora district in southern Baghdad, injuring three others, and a rocket hit a Christian home in downtown Baghdad, wounding one person.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but such attacks have generally been the work of Sunni militants linked to al-Qaida.
Deputy interior minister, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abu Ragif, blamed Thursday's attacks on "terrorists who expressed hatred of Iraq in general and of the Christians in particular," Ragif said. The assailants' aim was to "prevent our Christian brothers to celebrate the New Year," he added.
At the Our Lady of Salvation church, both Christians and Muslims gathered Friday morning in a show of solidarity and to see a play performed by Iraqi actors about a woman whose son is killed in the church siege.
One Muslim woman said she wanted to demonstrate to the Christian community that they are not alone.
"What has happened in this church was so painful to all of us. We wish that we died instead of them. Those who plan to steal Iraq won't succeed because we all share joy and sadness together," said Hiba Shihab.
Saad Abdul-Kadir contributed to this report.