ISIS claims responsibility for Palm Sunday church attacks in Egypt

by WorldTribune Staff, April 9, 2017

Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for attacks on two Egyptian Coptic churches on Palm Sunday in which 43 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

ISIS’s affiliate in Egypt has increased attacks and threats against what is the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. About 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people are Christian.

A Coptic priest stands at the scene following a bombing inside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral in Alexandria. /Reuters

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt later this month.

The first bombing on April 9 occurred in Tanta, a Nile Delta city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Cairo.

The bomb tore through the inside of St. George Church during its Palm Sunday service, killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 78, the Ministry of Health said.

A few hours after the Tanta attack, a suicide bomber in Alexandria hit Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 16 people, including three police officers, and injuring 41, the ministry said, according to a Reuters report.

Coptic Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but was not harmed, the Interior Ministry said.

“These acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people,” Tawadros said, according to state media.

President Abdul Fatah Sisi summoned the National Defense Council to an urgent session following the attacks, which he said “will only harden the determination (of the Egyptian people) to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development.”

Egypt’s Christian community has felt increasingly insecure amid the uptick in ISIS attacks.

“Of course we feel targeted, there was a bomb here about a week ago but it was dismantled. There’s no security,” said a Christian woman in Tanta. She was referring to an attack earlier this month near a police training center that killed one policeman and injured 15.

Wahby Lamie, who had one nephew killed and another nephew injured in the Tanta blast, expressed exasperation at the growing number of attacks.

“How much longer are we going to be this divided? Anyone who’s different from them now is an infidel, whether they’re Muslim or Christian. They see them as infidels,” he said.

“How much longer are these people going to exist? And how much longer will security be this incompetent?”