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CAIRO – At least 44 Coptic Christians were killed on Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017, in two separate bombings.
More than 30 people were killed, and 75 others injured, when a suicide bomber approached the altar of a historic Coptic church in Tanta, north of Cairo, and set up off device at the front of the church. Soon thereafter, another suicide bomber struck at St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where the Coptic Pope Tawadros was presiding at Palm Sunday services. At least a dozen people were killed, and another 65 injured, in the latter attack.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings. Egyptian authorities say that the Muslim Brotherhood was also involved.
The two Coptic churches appear to have been chosen for their symbolic value. The Mar Girgis Church in Tanta is one of the oldest Christian churches in Egypt, dating back to the year 316. The cathedral in Alexandria was likely targeted because of the presence of Pope Tawadros.
Security at the cathedral was tight, and the suicide bomber was stopped at a screening point when he detonated his explosive belt. Pope Tawadros was not hurt, and was escorted from the damaged building under heavy security.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi telephoned his condolences to Pope Tawadros after the bombings, and declared three days of national mourning. He also declared a national state of emergency, and ordered troops to protect Christian churches.
A Vatican spokesman said that the bombings would not affect plans for a visit to Egypt by Pope Francis later this month. “There is no doubt that the Holy Father will maintain his resolution to go,” Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the deputy secretary of state, to Corriere della Sera. “What happened caused dismay and great suffering, but it cannot stop the Pope’s mission of peace.” – CWN