Dubai – ISIS terror group has claimed the responsibility of two separate Palm Sunday attacks that left 43 dead and more than 100 people injured at Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, media reports said.
It is stated that the first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.
Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says the second explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria – left at least 16 dead, and 41 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II – leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria – finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.
At least three police officers were killed in the St. Mark’s attack, the ministry said.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group’s recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.
The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of troops to assist police in protecting vital facilities across the country.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” against the US ally but added that he has “great confidence” that el-Sissi, “will handle the situation properly.” The two leaders met at the White House on April 3.
“Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up,” provincial governor Ahmad Deif told the state-run Nile TV channel.
The attack in Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.