After Egypt church attack, a 10-year-old girl clings to life

CAIRO (AP) — Ten-year-old Maggie Momen clings to life in a Cairo hospital four days after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Sunday Mass packed with women and children.

She had gone with her family to the St. Peter and St. Paul Church. At the part of the service when worshippers turn to each other, shake hands and offer forgiveness, the bomber stepped in, turning a moment of shared mercy into a scene of unspeakable carnage.

At least 25 people, mainly women, were killed, and another 49 were wounded. The pews were caked in blood and the floors glistened with puddles of shattered glass. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group late Tuesday.

As Egypt's Christian community struggles to come to terms with the attack, Momen has become the face of their grief, with pictures of the smiling child circulating on social media alongside prayer requests.

Heirs to some of the world's first Christians, the Copts today make up around 10 percent of Egypt's population. They have long suffered from discrimination and have been targeted by Islamic extremists in the past.

But Sunday's attack was the worst in recent memory, and a sense of dread has descended on the community ahead of Christmas and New Year's. On Wednesday night, dozens of Egyptians took part in a candlelight vigil, holdings signs that said "honor your martyr."

Momen's family prays this dreadful holiday season won't be her last, but her grandfather, Magdi, says the doctors are not giving them much hope. There was talk of flying her out of Egypt for advanced care, but the doctors advised against it, warning of a possible sudden deterioration of her condition.

Her mother, Nermine, also survived the attack, but with shrapnel wounds to her eyes and a partial loss of hearing. Her six-year-old sister, Mira, who was outside the church playing at the time of the attack, is the "lucky one," Magdi said.

Maggie's friends and family say she was an avid volleyball player, a ballet dancer and an actress in religious films made by local TV stations. Her volleyball coach, Mohammed Abdu, said she helped her team defeat a rival at a match on Friday.

"She told me 'If we win, I will dance.' She loved dancing," Abdu said. "Now she is in God's hands."