At least 37 people were killed and more than 100 injured in two separate bombing attacks that struck churches in Egypt. The blasts ripped through services for Palm Sunday on April 9.
The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A bomb placed under a seat in the main prayer hall of St. George’s Coptic Church in Tanta, northern Egypt, ripped the hall apart, killing at least 26 and wounded 60 others.
“Everything is destroyed inside the church,” eyewitness Peter Kamel told media outlets after the attack.
A suicide bombing hit Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria a few hours later. According to state TV reports, police officers prevented the suicide bomber from entering the Church, and he detonated his device outside.
At least 11 people were killed and 35 others wounded in that attack. Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, had just lead mass for Palm Sunday but is unharmed as he reportedly had just left the building.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, The head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious institution of learning in Sunni Islam, condemned the attack, calling it a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”
The Coptic community in Egypt has long faced discrimination, but that has worsened since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and replaced him first with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s president Mohammed Morsi and then with former general, President Abdefattah el-Sisi.
Breakaway Muslim Brotherhood factions and ISIS affiliates have been targeting Coptic Christians in an effort to destabilize the state and cleanse Egypt of non-Muslims.
In February, ISIS released a propaganda video featuring a terrorist who carried out a previous attack on St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, threatening to eliminate Egypt’s Christians and “liberate Cairo.”