President Obama "strongly" condemned on Saturday New Year's Eve terrorist attacks in Egypt and Nigeria that targeted a Coptic Christian church and an open-air market.
Nearly 1,000 Christians were gathered for Mass in Alexandria, Egypt, when an explosive-packed vehicle just four yards from the front of the church detonated. Twenty-one were killed and 79 injured, and the Egyptian Health Ministry said it was not immediately known if all the victims were Christian.
The regional governor blamed al-Qaeda, which has threatened attacks on Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
"The attack on a church in Alexandria, Egypt caused 21 reported deaths and dozens of injured from both the Christian and Muslim communities," Obama said in a statement. "The perpetrators of this attack were clearly targeting Christian worshipers, and have no respect for human life and dignity. They must be brought to justice for this barbaric and heinous act."
The statement is stronger than the one issued by the administration after the Oct. 31 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad that killed 52. Some lawmakers criticized the White House for not noting then that Christians were specifically targeted in the attack.
Obama offered assistance to the Egyptian government in responding to the "terrible event."
The Nigeria bombing targeted an army barracks in Abuja, killing at least four and injuring 21 in the market's beer garden. President Goodluck Jonathan blamed Muslim extremists Saturday for the attack, which comes on the heels of several recent attacks on churches. A series of Christmas Eve bomb blasts killed at least 80 in the city of Jos, while six people were killed in church attacks in Maiduguri.
An Islamist group claimed responsiblity for the Jos attacks, while dozens of Muslim extremists have been arrested in the Maiduguri attacks.
"Killing innocent civilians who were simply gathering – like so many people around the world – to celebrate the beginning of a New Year further demonstrates the bankrupt vision of those who carry out these attacks, and we are similarly prepared to offer assistance to the Government of Nigeria as it works to bring the perpetrators to justice," Obama said.