ISIS claimed responsibility for bombings that killed 43 at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday — brazen strikes against a vulnerable minority on one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.
The terror group’s Amaq media wing said “a security detachment” of the Islamic State carried out the attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The bombings also left scores wounded.
CNN could not independently confirm that ISIS was behind the attacks — or had any involvement in planning them. ISIS often uses Amaq news agency to claim attacks after they have happened.
The first blast was in the northern city of Tanta, where a powerful explosion ripped through a Palm Sunday service at St George’s Church, killing 27 people and wounding 78 others, state TV reported. The explosive device was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall, it said.
Not long after that, at least 16 people were killed and 41 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack outside Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, according to two state-news outlets. Egyptian state media also reported that the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was inside the Church when the blast happened. He was not injured.
In a statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi condemned the attacks, saying the “outrageous” action “targets both the Copts and Muslims of the homeland.” He ordered investigators to “hunt down the perpetrators” and “take all measures to offer the necessary care for the wounded.”
He has called an urgent meeting of his country’s National Defense Council and declared three days of nationwide mourning.