The Islamic State ( IS) has claimed responsibility for the gruesome suicide bombings that struck churches in northern Egypt yesterday just as the Christian world was observing Palm Sunday to usher the Holy Week. 44 people died and at least 126 others were injured in what is now regarded as the single deadliest day for Christians in decades, and the worst since the Cairo church bombing in December last year that killed 30 people.
The twin blasts turned the otherwise solemn church services into scenes of horror and anger for the extreme terror the people suffered. Egypt President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has called for a three-month state of emergency, which needs approval from the parliament. It is likely that al-Sisi will secure the permission as his supporters dominate the parliament.
The first bomb exploded inside St. George's church in Tanta, killing at least 27 people and injuring 78 others. The explosion shattered windows, turned over pews, stained the walls with blood, and blown off several doors. The scenes as captured on video were heartbreaking. People gathered around the bloody, lifeless bodies of the victims. Women cried and screamed outside the church.
A few hours later, a suicide bomber rushed to St.Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria and repeated the horror, killing at least 17 people and wounding 48 others.
The attacks happened just weeks before Pope Francis is set to visit the country. Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic church who is earlier scheduled to meet the Pope on April 28-29 was in the Alexandria cathedral at the time of the explosion. He was unhurt.
Pope Francis expressed deep condolences to his brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and the Egyptian nation during the Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter Square.
The terror attacks in the Egyptian churches are adding to fears that extremists are shifting their focus to innocent civilians. Christians are a minority in the country, comprising only 10% of Egypt's population. The attacks further highlighted the challenges of the government to protect the Christians as a minority group.
President al-Sisi has ordered elite troops across the country to protect key installations. He accused other countries of triggering instability but did not name those countries.
President Trump has expressed sadness over the terror attacks in Egypt and relayed his solidarity with al-Sisi, who was just a guest at the White House on April 3. Trump tweeted: " So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President al-Sisi will handle the situation properly."