(By Jayson Casper, Christianity Today). Attacks at two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt’s Nile Delta killed more than 40 people and injured more than 100 others during Palm Sunday services—including the one where Pope Tawadros II was worshiping.
ISIS claimed responsibility. In February, the Egypt chapter of the Islamist extremists had released a threatening video calling Coptic Christians “our priority and our preferred prey.” Soon after, about 100 Christian families fled their homes in the Sinai Peninsula amid a string of murders.
Reuters reports more details on the bombing in Tanta at Mar Girgis (St. George) Church, which killed at least 27 and injured more than 70. CNN reports more details on the Alexandria bombing at St. Mark’s Cathedral, which killed at least 16 and injured more than 40. [Before ending its live updates, state media outlet Ahram Online put the final toll from Egypt’s health ministry at 29 dead in Tanta and 18 dead in Alexandria.]
Nader Wanis, director of the Arkan Cultural Center in Alexandria, was worshiping at the Anglican Pro-Cathedral only two streets from St. Mark’s when the bomb went off. “It was only a few minutes before serving communion and it shook our whole church,” he told CT. “We were scared, but insisted to continue.”
A member of Tanta’s Christian community described to CT a chaotic scene with many people in the streets. “I don’t know what to say. I’m still shocked,” said the Coptic woman, who requested anonymity. “But people are angry, and don’t understand how this happened amid all the security.” (Two weeks earlier in Tanta, a bomb was defused at Mar Girgis—the city’s largest church—and a local police training center was attacked.)
Tawadros was attending the service at the Alexandria cathedral, which serves as his historical seat in one of the five ancient sees of early Christianity. But the patriarch was unharmed by the suicide bomber, who blew himself up after being directed through a metal detector. Three police officers died in the intervention, according to state media.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar, widely regarded as the world’s highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, strongly condemned the attack, calling it an “outrageous crime.” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of national mourning.