CAIRO: Back-to-back bombings at two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday killed more than 30 people in the deadliest assault on the country’s Coptic Christian community in years.
One of the targets was the seat of the Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria.
No one claimed responsibility for the first blast inside the Mar Girgis church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta or the second outside the cathedral in Alexandria.
At least 26 people were reported killed and 71 wounded in the Tanta bombing, which was caused by a device placed under the first row of pews, according to state-run media.
At least 11 others died in Alexandria, state TV cited the health ministry as saying. One of the casualties was a police officer who tried to prevent a suspected suicide bomber from entering the church, the Ahram Gate news website reported, citing unidentified security officials.
Pope Tawadros II, who had led Palm Sunday Mass in Alexandria, wasn’t hurt, state-run media said.
The attacks underscored the challenges confronting the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as it tries to attract international investors to revive an economy battered by years of unrest.
In his meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House last week, the Egyptian leader focused on the need to combat terrorism while also pressing for continued US aid to his nation.
Egyptian authorities have struggled to rein in a wave of attacks, most of them carried out by militants affiliated with Islamic State in northern Sinai. The militants have also struck in urban centres and targeted Coptic Christians, widely estimated to make up about 10% of Egypt’s 92 million residents.
El Sisi convened an emergency session of the national security council.
This terrorism “will not undermine the will of Egyptians in facing the forces of evil, but will make them more determined to overcome hardship”, he said in a statement from the presidency.