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