Dozens were killed and more than 100 were injured in two separate bombing incidents that occurred in Coptic churches on Palm Sunday.
The first bombing attack took place in the morning at St. George’s Church in Tanta, which is located north of Cairo. According to Morning Star, about 27 were killed during this incident, and about 78 were wounded. Reports say a bomb was planted under one of the church seats.
In the second incident which occurred several hours later, a suicide bomber detonated himself when he was stopped by security guards at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, leading to the deaths of some 17 people. About 48 others were wounded.
The twin bombings mark the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt in decades, reports say.
However, Christians have been specifically targeted in terrorist attacks in the country in the last few months. Two Coptic churches were bombed last Christmas, killing 24 and wounding 50.
“Christians are — whether Coptic Christians or Catholics or any other Christian — a target these days for terrorists,” Joseph Ghabour, the deacon of public relations at the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark in New Jersey, told Baptist Press.
“We pray for all those who hate us and we ask that God provide His guidance to them to enlighten their hearts and minds to know the right way,” he added.
Soon after the attacks, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for them. Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi also declared a three-month-long state of emergency in the nation on the same day, which would allow the government to monitor communication, restrict movement or gatherings, and deploy officials for enforcement, among other actions. The Egyptian parliament must approve the state of emergency within seven days.
The attack was condemned by leaders worldwide, and many expressed their solidarity and intent for prayer on behalf of the loved ones of the victims.
Oklahoma Senator James Lankford called the attacks “horrible,” and added, “Anti-religious and anti-Christian violence is alive and well throughout the Middle East, and the world.”
"Radical Islamists kill Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; and different Muslim sects because they believe in a different brand of Islam than them. The right to practice any faith, or have no faith, should be a fundamental human right of all people. The United States of America will always stand with people around the World who seek freedom of conscience and assembly," said Lankford.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Christian families affected by these deadly attacks,” said William Stark, the regional manager of International Christian Concern.
Stark added that there is a need for “decisive action” by authorities.
"No one should have to fear senseless violence like this for simply attending a church service,” Stark said. “These bombings represent the second and third church bombings Egypt’s Christians have had to endure in recent months. Action must be taken by Egypt’s authorities to secure the country’s Christian communities and their places of worship, especially as we enter Holy Week. Unless decisive action is taken, attacks like these will likely continue.”