It’s been reported this evening that Coptic Christian churches have come under attack during today’s Palm Sunday observances.
Two blasts have occurred, one at St George’s Church (near the altar) in Tanta killing 29, and a second outside St Mark’s Church in Alexandria which killed 16.
Over 100 people have been confirmed injured in the blasts so far.
Islamic State (IS) has claimed the attacks, in a continuation of it’s recent campaign against Coptic Christians in the country.
It’s reported that among those killed in Alexandria were four police officers who were in the process of preventing the bomber entry to the place of worship.
It seems that while one detonation took place just outside the church, both were intended to be within the holy place during the holiday services in a sick assault on Christian culture in the area.
Alexandria is the spiritual home of the Coptic Church, and this represents yet another very clear and calculated message of opposition and intimidation from IS.
Following the first attack on St George, Catholic Pope Francis spoke to a gathering in St Peter’s Square:
“To my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic Church and to all the dear Egyptian nation I express my deep condolences. I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the deceased and injured] and to the entire community.”
According to the Egyptian Interior Ministry, Coptic Pope Tawadros II was unharmed despite having been leading mass in Alexandria at the time of the second explosion.
Pope Francis will be visiting Egypt later this month.
An eyewitness to the Tanta attack is quoted as saying:
“I saw pieces of body parts and broken seats. There was so much blood everywhere, some people had half of their bodies missing. The first three rows [inside the church] were destroyed.”
Egyptian Ahram Online reported earlier today:
“According to Al-Ahram Arabic, security forces have dismantled two explosive devices at Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque in Tanta city. The mosque, which includes a Sufi shrine, is considered the second most important mosque in city.”
US President Trump has come out in support of Egyptian President Sisi, who has “ordered troops be immediately deployed to assist police in securing vital facilities” according to Reuters.
Coptic Christians make up 10% of Egypt’s 90 million people, and they are under fire from IS (not for the first time.)
One comment left on the Al Jazeera report this evening by a certain Gregory Nelson was less than sympathetic, however: