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ALEXANDRIA, Jan 1: Egypt said a suicide bomber killed 21 people and wounded 79 outside a Coptic church on Saturday, in an attack President Hosni Mubarak said was the work of “foreign hands.”

There was no immediate claim but Al Qaeda has called for punishment of Egypt's Copts over claims that two priests' wives they say had converted to Islam were being held by the Church against their will.

The bombing in Alexandria sparked anger among Christians, who clashed with police and shouted slogans against the despotic regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

A health ministry official said 21 people were killed and 79 wounded, and the interior ministry said eight of those hurt were Muslims.

A witness had told private channel On-TV that in a car park outside the Al-Qiddissin (The Saints) church shortly after midnight (2200 GMT Friday), he saw two men get out and the explosion happen almost immediately afterwards.

But the interior ministry ruled out the hypothesis of a car bomb, saying it was “probable that the bomb... was carried by a suicide bomber who died among the crowd.”—AFP