The jihadi terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for killing at least 47 people and injuring more than a 100 in two separate bomb attacks in Egypt on one of the most important days of the Christian calendar, Palm Sunday.
Two Coptic churches were targeted by so called Islamic State fighters/suicide-bombers in Tanta and Alexandria as Egyptian Christians were celebrating the last Sunday before Easter.
The Guardian reports:
An explosion in the city of Tanta, about 56 miles (90km) north of Cairo killed 29 and injured 71 as they prayed at the Mar Girgis church according to the Egyptian health ministry. A second blast struck the Egyptian port city of Alexandria three hours later, killing 18 and wounding 35.
The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who account for about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attacks come weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.
Video from the moment the blast struck the Mar Girgis church in Tanta just before 10am on Sunday showed the sounds of a choir gathered to sing hymns celebrating the Christian holy day, rapidly turning to screams of anguish and panic. Egypt’s state television later reported that a bomb planted under one of the pews ripped through the church.
“As I was passing by the church, I heard a huge blast – I’d never heard a sound like this,” said Salah el Arby, a taxi driver in the town of Tanta. “People began running out of the church – shouting and afraid.”
“I believe this attack was the fault of the security forces,” he continued, citing a bomb previously diffused by police at Mar Girgis church in the town on the 29 March. “The police didn’t protect the church on an important day like today.”
Gruesome images circulated on social media in the aftermath of the blast, showing blood-stained woven palm branches, of the kind traditionally carried to celebrate Palm Sunday. Churches across Egypt had anticipated a higher than average attendance to celebrate the holiday.
The second blast in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria struck St Marks Coptic Orthodox church came three hours later. Egyptian state media reported that Coptic Pope Tawadros II was inside the church when the explosion struck, after leading worshippers in Palm Sunday prayers.
Three policeman were killed as they tried to prevent the suicide bomber from entering St Marks Cathedral in Alexandria, including one who embraced the suicide bomber just 100 metres from the Cathedral, preventing him from entering.
“Although there was a police constable who hugged the person holding the explosive belt to stop him entering the church, at the same time we cannot ignore the fatal mistakes by the security authorities that let this many attacks happen in a short time,” said Haitham al Hariri, a member of parliament with the Socialist Popular Alliance.
“If a bomb had been placed under the seat in Alexandria while the Pope was speaking as it was in Tanta, this would have been an even bigger disaster.”
Speaking to the Guardian from the Amiri public hospital where victims of the blast had been taken, he said: “I’m here in the hospital and people are angry at me – and angry at every official in this country. Families here are disappointed, frustrated and angry at everyone with no exception – from the head to lowest in the state.”
Read more: The Guardian
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