At least 45 people were killed and over 100 people were injured in two blasts at Egyptian Coptic churches on Palm Sunday. The attacks came just a week before Coptic Easter and Pope Francis’ scheduled arrival in the country.
The first blast took place at Tanta, a Nile Delta city, 100 km outside Cairo, in which at least 27 people were reported to be killed while 78 were seriously injured. The injured victims were taken to nearby hospitals.
The second blast took place at St. George Church in the city of Alexandria- the historic seat of Coptic church. A suicide bomber carried out the second blast just few hours after the first one. The Egyptian Ministry said that at least 16 people have died in the blast, while 41 others have been injured. Three police officials are believed to be included among the dead.
By Sunday night, President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi had declared a state of emergency across the country for three months.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both bombings through the Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamist militant group. World leaders, including Pope Francis and President Trump, condemned the attacks.
Sunday's assaults threaten to further alienate the country's Orthodox Coptic Christian community, which makes up 10 percent of the population. For decades, Egypt's Copts have felt discriminated against by the country's Muslims, and assaults against them have intensified since the 2011 revolution, part of the Arab Spring uprisings, that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Christians largely supported the rise of el-Sissi, who came to power after the overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. After taking office, el-Sissi launched a brutal crackdown on Islamists that was supported by many Christians.
Yet anger within the Christian community toward el-Sissi is growing. After each attack in recent months, the government promised to safeguard Christians with improved security measures, only to witness another assault on the community.
At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis, who plans to visit Egypt three weeks from now, denounced the bombings and expressed "his deep condolences" to Tawadros II and "all of the dear Egyptian nation."
In remarks made after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square, the Pope asked God to "convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons."
US President Donald Trump tweeted, "So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly."