A Greek Orthodox Church in Turkish-occupied north Cyprus was shaken Friday after a bomb exploded, causing damage to the building, but no injuries, authorities said. According to a local radio station, the bomb exploded at the entrance of the Christian Orhtodox Church of Agios (Saint) Mamas in Morfour, west of Nicosia, at 3:30 a.m. local time.
The church, which was changed by Turkish Cypriot authorities into a museum for Orthodox icons since the 1974 Turkish invasion, was empty at the time of the blast that damaged the church entrance, its ceiling, and windows of the church and nearby buildings, reported the Associated Press.
According to the Turkish Cypriot police, it is believed that a fire-bomb was thrown to ignite explosives that had been planted earlier outside of the building.
Sources say, the attack followed media reports that Turkish Cypriot extremeist groups had vowed to try to prevent services planned for next week at the church to celebrate Saint Mamas’s Day.
The church had been in the limelight in recent weeks on both sides of the divide following a decision by Morphou Bishop Neophytos to conduct religious rites at the church on Sept. 1-2 to celebrate the day of its’ namesake.
Morphou Municipality had said it was up to the people to determine whether they want to attend the proposed religious rites or not.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said the reopening of the church-turned-museum signaled the return of Greek Cypriots to the areas.
Hundreds of Greek Cypriots who fled Morphou in the wake of 1974 invasion had planned to attend the service.
“Measures have been taken so that the service could be held in a quiet, peaceful way and they will continue to be taken,” said Mehmet Ali Talat, the premier of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot.
“No one has the right to upset our internal peace.”
Aristos Katis, a Greek Cypriot originally from Morphou, urged fellow Greek Cypriots to “not be cowed by the bomb attack and to attend the service on Wednesday.”
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the attack “tends to poison the climate of calm which is necessary for the pursuit of the object of the reunification of our island.”
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided into the Turkish-Cypriot north and the Greek-Cypriot south. Earlier this year, Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the reunification of the island on the basis of a United Nations plan. The Greek Cypriots, however, rejected the motion overwhelmingly, saying it did not go far enough to address their concerns about the presence of Turkish troops in the north and that it restricted the right of all the 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who fled from the north in the wake of the invasion to return and to regain their property.
The Greek-Cypriot south, recognized by the world community, entered the European Union in May 1, after it rejected a UN-sponsored reunification plan, which was upheld by the Turkish north.
[Source: Associated Press]