Islamic State group (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for two church bombings in Egypt today as worshippers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, killing at least 38 people with scores injured in the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian minority in recent memory.
A bomb exploded in a Coptic church north of Cairo, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 50 others, while the second, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 11, including three police officers, and injuring 35.
ISIS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.
“A group that belongs to Islamic State carried out the two attacks on the churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria,” said Amaq, the group’s news agency.
Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.
“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.
“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.
The bombings come as Islamic State’s branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up attacks and threats against Christians.
In February, Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province after a spate of targeted killings.