The Egypt bomb blasts occurred on Palm Sunday; a Christian feast commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem…
Two bomb blasts struck two Coptic Churches in Egypt, killing at least 40 people on one of the most important days on the Christian calendar -Palm Sunday.
The first blast which struck 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. The church in Tanta according to reports, was packed with worshippers who gathered to mark Palm Sunday, a Christian feast commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
Video from the moment the blast struck before 10 am on Sunday, showed the sounds of a choir singing hymns to celebrate the Christian holy day, rapidly turn to screams of anguish and panic.
Egypt Bomb blasts: St George’s church in Tanta
The second blast struck three hours later in Alexandria – killing 18 including three police officers, and wounding 35. The deadly explosion hit in front of Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a service.
Three policemen were killed as they tried to prevent the suicide bomber from entering St Marks Cathedral in Alexandria. According to reports, one of the officers embraced the suicide bomber just 100 metres from the Cathedral, preventing him from entering.
Eyewitnesses who interacted with the media described the horrifying incidents. Witnesses of the Tanta blast admitted to seeing flames flaring up the church ceiling as loud screams were heard inside. Moments after the blast saw tons of Police officers and other accident and emergency bodies throng the church as they dug into the gory debris in search of survivors.
Two suicide bombers carried out the Egypt bomb blasts. One targeted St George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta, where 27 people were killed.
ISIS Claims Responsibility
ISIS claimed responsibility for the two attacks which killed at least 40 people and left hundreds wounded. In a statement issued on a Telegram messaging platform, the militant group identified two of the bombers as Egyptian nationals and warned of more attacks.
Egypt declares state of emergency after deadly church attacks
Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, has announced a three-month state of emergency after the two deadly ISIS attacks. The President after meeting his national security chiefs, also created a powerful new anti-terrorism body, to fight against militants who have continued to impede the government’s progress on terrorism.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the state of emergency would come into force once legal and constitutional measures have been completed. The state of emergency will allow authorities to make arrests without warrants and search people’s homes.
The recent attacks the President said, has not weakened the Egyptian government but rather, has only strengthened their determination towards employing better strategies to realise security, stability and comprehensive development. The President, however, stressed the war was going to be “long and painful”.
Watch: Moment of Egypt Bomb Blast
Coptics Living In Fear
Christians living in Egypt identify themselves as Coptic Christians. These Christians known as Copts, are the largest ethno-religious minority in Egypt, constituting roughly 10 per cent of the country’s 95 million people.
This small faction has become the target of ISIS militant groups in recent times. Copts are often the victims of persecution and repeated attacks carried out by Islamic extremists.
These twin blasts carried out by ISIS as a matter of fact, are just two of the many persecutions meted out on Coptic Christians by extremists. In December 2016, an attack at a Coptic church in Cairo killed 25 people. In February 2016, a court sentenced three Christian teenagers to five years in prison for insulting Islam.
Coptic Christians in Egypt who make only 10 percent of the population, are said to be in a state of tension and uncertainty following the attacks. The attack which came weeks before an expected visit by Pope Francis, has triggered more fear among the faction, as it has shaken the trust of the people on government’s capability to protect them from extremists.
According to tradition, the Church was established by Saint Mark, an apostle and evangelist, in the middle of the 1st century (approximately 42 AD).