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State of emergency declared in Egypt after ISIS church bombings kill 47

Priyata Brajabasi | Updated on: 10 April 2017, 16:43 IST
Egyptian Christians gather around coffins of their loved ones during the late night funeral of the victims of a blast which killed worshippers attending Palm Sunday mass at the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency following twin church bombings by the Islamic State group that killed at least 47 people as the country’s largest minority celebrated Palm on 9 April.

An explosion in the Egyptian city of Tanta, about 90 km north of Cairo, killed 29 and injured 71 as they prayed at the Mar Girgis church according to the Egyptian health ministry. A second blast struck the port city of Alexandria three hours later, killing 18 and wounding 35.

Egyptian Christians gather around coffins of their loved ones during the late night funeral of the victims of a blast which killed worshippers attending Palm Sunday mass at the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who account for about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attacks come weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

 Video from the moment the blast struck the Mar Girgis church in Tanta just before 10 am on Sunday showed the sounds of a choir gathered to sing hymns celebrating the Christian holy day, rapidly turning to screams of anguish and panic. Egypt’s state television later reported that a bomb planted under one of the pews ripped through the church.

An aerial view shows people gathering outside the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

The twin attacks, timed for a day of Christian worship, come following months of attacks on Egypt’s Coptic minority.

St Peter and St Paul’s church in the St Marks Cathedral compound in Cairo witnessed a similar attack in December 2016, in which a suicide bomber was able to enter the church, killing 29 people as they worshipped there by placing a bomb under a pew.

Egyptians gather at near a church in Alexandria after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

When claiming responsibility for the attack in February this year, ISIS vowed to “liberate” Cairo and threatened Christians across Egypt.

The Egyptian president Abdel-Fatah al Sisi said in a statement that the blasts “will not undermine the resolve and true will of the Egyptian people to counter the forces of evil, but will only harden their determination to move forward on their trajectory to realise security, stability and comprehensive development.”

Graphic content: Forensics collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

Christians have been increasingly targeted in Egypt following the overthrow of former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. December’s attack was followed by increasing attacks on Coptic Christians in the Sinai Peninsula, causing some 250 Christians to flee the northern Sinai town of Arish.

Graphic content: Forensics collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Graphic content: Forensics collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Graphic content: Forensics collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Graphic content: A picture taken on 9 April, 2017 shows blood staining one of the columns of the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta at which a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to attend the Palm Sunday mass. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Graphic content: A picture taken on 9 April, 2017 shows a general view of the destruction, debris, and blood stains on the benches of the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta, at which a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to attend the Palm Sunday mass. ( AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Egyptian Christians carry coffins of their loved ones during the late night funeral of the victims of a blast which killed worshippers attending Palm Sunday mass at the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta on 9 April, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
First published: 10 April 2017, 14:37 IST
 
Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Priyata thinks in words and delivers in pictures. The marriage of the two, she believes, is of utmost importance. Priyata joined the Catch team after working at Barcroft Media as a picture desk editor. Prior to that she was on the Output Desk of NDTV 24X7. At work Priyata is all about the news. Outside of it, she can't stay far enough. She immerses herself in stories through films, books and television shows. Oh, and she can eat. Like really.

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