CAIRO — Two bomb attacks struck Coptic churches in Egypt as worshippers flocked to church for Palm Sunday services, killing nearly 40 people in Tanta and Alexandria. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the blasts.
Coptic church-goers and rescue workers picked through the debris inside the St. George Coptic cathedral in Tanta, north of Cairo in the Nile Delta. Pews were broken and overturned and bloodstained clothing and body parts were strewn on the ground.
Eyewitnesses say an explosion took place near the church altar as worshipers recited prayers on Palm Sunday. which begins the Christian Holy Week. Victims of the blast were taken to several nearby hospitals and residents of Tanta were urged to donate blood.
Dr. Amjed Abdel Raouf, Dean of the Tanta Medical College, says doctors are doing their best to care for victims of the blast:
He says that more than 60 wounded people were taken to two government hospitals. He said some victims had suffered burns and others were being treated for shrapnel wounds.
A second explosion occurred hours later outside the main Coptic cathedral in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. Police indicated a suicide bomber struck outside the church.
A Coptic church spokesman said the head of the church, Pope Tawadros III, who was conducting Palm Sunday services inside the church, may have been the target of the attack.
People in the streets outside the church scattered in all directions following the bomb blast, shouting and screaming as they ran.
U.S. President Donald Trump, on Twitter, said he strongly condemns the blasts.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both church bombings. Egypt’s Mufti Shawki Alam condemned the group and insisted those that belong to IS are “not authentic Muslims.”
He called the group a “criminal, terrorist group, by all measures” and insisted that Egypt is “at a critical point in the life of our nation and that everyone must exert more effort to put an end to extremist ideology and errant interpretations of Islam.
In Rome, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, condemned the bombings. Sources close to Pope Francis told Arab media he has not canceled plans to visit Egypt, later this month.
– Edward Yeranian I VOA