Two deadly explosions at Christian Coptic churches in Egypt have left at least 36 people dead and 100 injured. The Islamic terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility.
According to the New York Times, the first bomb was set off at St. George’s Church in northern Egypt during a mass service at 9:30 a.m. The Egyptian Health Ministry said that 27 people were killed.
Hours later, the second attack— allegedly carried out by a suicide bomber— took place outside St. Mark’s Cathedral, the largest Coptic congregation in Alexandria. At least 13 were confirmed dead. Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, had been on site moments before the bomb’s detonation. However, aides confirm he had left the building prior to the attack and is unharmed.
The attack on Palm Sunday takes place at the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time of year for Christians as believers prepare to celebrate Easter. For Egypt’s beleaguered Christian minority—which make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population—the incident is the latest in a series of violent attacks carried out by Islamic extremists.
In response, President Trump tweeted late Sunday morning: “So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. The U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly.”
The terrorist attack takes place two weeks before Pope Francis is set to visit Egypt. Pope Francis, who was informed of the attack while conducting Palm Sunday services in St. Peter’s Square said, “I pray for the dead and the victims. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons.” He offered “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.”
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo released the following statement: “The U.S. Embassy expresses its absolute condemnation of the terrorist attack against St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. We condemn this hateful act targeting worshippers as they celebrated one of the most sacred days in Christianity. We grieve with all Egyptians as we express our most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families and we hope for a speedy recovery for those injured in the attack. Again, the United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism.”
Palm Sunday is observed by Christians around the world as the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The biblical account is found in Matthews 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, and Luke 19:28-40.
NOTE: This is a breaking story. Details will be updated when further information becomes available.
Photo from AMN Al Masdar News