A pair of explosions ripped apart Palm Sunday services at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, leaving at least 31 dead and several more injured. According to the New York Times, Islamic State has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks and follow several attacks by the group against Christians in Egypt according to the New York Times. Images of the chaos have flooded social media and mark an uneasy start to Easter celebrations and a pending visit from the Pope in the coming weeks:
The first blast ripped through St. George’s Church in northern Egypt in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during a Mass about 9:30 a.m., according to an official from the Health Ministry.
The deputy minister of health put the preliminary death toll at 25, but some local television reports said at least 25 people had died.
Hours later, a suicide bomber set off an explosion outside the main Coptic church in Alexandria, St. Mark’s Cathedral, killing at least six — three police officers — and injuring 21 others, the Health Ministry said.
The twin blasts follow another deadly blast in December at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, an attack claimed by ISIS that left 28 dead at the main Coptic church in Egypt according to the Times. As CNN points out, violence against Egypt’s Christian minority has spiked since the Arab Spring protests in 2011 that lead tothe ouster of leader Hosni Mubarak:
“Coptic churches and homes have been set on fire, members of the Coptic minority have been physically attacked, and their property has been looted,” rights group Amnesty International reported in March.
Several have condemned the attacks around the globe, including representatives of The Church of England and Pope Francis who released a statement praying for the victims:
“To my dear brother his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic church and to all of the dear country Egypt, I express my deep condolences, I prayed for the dead and the wounded, I am close to the families and to the entire community. God convert the hearts of the people who spread terror, violence and dead, and also the heart of who produces and traffic weapons”