Not less than 43 persons were killed and hundreds injured in bomb attacks on two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, in Egypt. The attacks were the latest assault on a religious minority by Islamist militants waging Jihad.
Islamic State of Syrian and Iraq (ISIS or ISIL) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
CNN quoted the group as saying, “The Crusaders and their apostate followers must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large, and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God is willing,”
It is also reported that the terrorist group identified the suicide bombers as Egyptian nationals just as there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks
The attacks came a week before Coptic Easter and in the same month that Pope Francis is scheduled to pay a visit to Egypt.
The first bombing which took place in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometers outside Cairo, killed at least 27 and injured about 78 persons.
A second strike, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing at least 16 and injuring 41. Among the dead is also reported to be three police officers.
Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but sustained no injury, the Ministry of Interior said.
The bombings came as ISIS’ branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up their attacks against Christians even as Egypt’s President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced a three-month state of emergency
In February, Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province after series of targeted killings.
Those attacks are reported to have come when a suicide bomber hit Egypt’s largest Coptic cathedral, killing at least 25. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage.
“There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered,” said a Christian woman who was inside the church.
“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” another Christian woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.
“Of course we feel targeted, there was a bomb here about a week ago but it was dismantled. There’s no security,” said another Christian woman in Tanta, referring to an attack earlier this month near a police training center that killed one policeman and injured 15.
Copts in Egypt face regular attacks by Muslim neighbors (especially extremists), who burn their homes and churches mainly in poor rural areas, usually due to anger over an inter-faith romance or over the construction of a church.