Bombs targeted two Coptic churches in Egypt as the Christian faithful observed Palm Sunday, one of the most important days on the religion’s calendar. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks. At least 43 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the two separate attacks.
The first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said, as quoted by Fox News.
Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.
A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria — left at least 16 dead, and 41 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II — leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria — finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group’s recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.
The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.
“May the Lord convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and terror,” Pope Francis said, condemning the attacks. He added: “And that of those who produce and sell weapons.” “I express my deep condolences. I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the deceased and injured] and to the entire community. May the Lord convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of troops to assist police in protecting vital facilities across the country.
Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns attacks
The Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) condemned the terrorist attacks on Palm Sunday targeted the two Coptic Churches.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry firmly condemns the bloody terrorist attacks on 9 April on the Coptic Churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt (…) Romania supports the continuous efforts of the Egyptian authorities of countering terrorism in all its forms,” reads a MAE press release.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry voiced solidarity with the Egyptian people, while conveying its compassion for the injured persons and addressing the most sincere condolences to the families of the victims.