The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for bombings on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt as worshippers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, one of the Christian calendar’s holiest days.
The first bombing occurred in the northern Egyptian city of Tanta, where an explosion ripped through a Palm Sunday service at St. George’s Church, reportedly killing at least 25 people and wounding 60 others. The bomb was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall, according to Egyptian state media.
Further, at least 11 people were killed and 35 were wounded in a suicide bombing attack outside of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria. Reports indicate that Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II was inside the church during the bombing, but was not injured.
In a mass at the Vatican Sunday, Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Egypt later this month, expressed “deep condolences” to “all of the dear Egyptian nation.”
“I pray for the dead and the victims. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons,” Francis said.
Sunday’s bombings marked the latest Islamic State attacks against Egyptian Christians. Last December, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 25 at Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral. More recently, hundreds of Egyptian Christians fled the northern Sinai Peninsula following several murders of Christians there and threats of more attacks. Egypt’s military has been engaged in a military campaign against an Islamic State-affiliated terror group in the Sinai Peninsula for the last few years.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said regarding Sunday’s bombings in Egypt, “Terror doesn’t stop in Stockholm, St. Petersbur, Berlin, London or Jerusalem. Today’s terror attack near Cairo reminds us that Egypt too is under attack.”
“Alongside the sorrow and grief, we need to join forces against the forces of evil and terror with an iron fist,” she said. “Israel is part of the international campaign against terror wherever it strikes and is ready to assist in order to rein it in.”