Egypt: more than 30 killed in twin bombings at Coptic churches

Palm Sunday attacks on Christian churches in Tanta and Alexandria injure more than 100 people, with cause of blasts unknown.

A bomb has exploded in a Coptic church north of Cairo, killing at least 26 people and wounding 50 others, while a suicide bomber has killed at least six people and injured 66 in front of a church in Alexandria.

The head of the Coptic church had earlier celebrated Palm Sunday at the church in Alexandria.

The bombing in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who account for about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attack on Palm Sunday worshippers comes weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either blast and their causes remain unknown.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the Tanta church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless bodies covered with papers.

Pope Francis condemned the attack on the Tanta church and expressed his “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation”.

News of the bombing came as Francis was marking Palm Sunday in St Peter’s Square.

The pontiff asked God “to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic in weapons”.

An Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed about 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai peninsula that have led to hundreds of Christians fleeing to safer areas of the country.

A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for the bombing of a police training centre in Tanta on 1 April, which left 16 people injured.

The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.

Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Related project: Alexandria Maternal and Child Health