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IS-claimed bombings at Egyptian Coptic churches kill 43

  • Published at 02:53 pm April 9th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:32 pm April 9th, 2017
IS-claimed bombings at Egyptian Coptic churches kill 43

At least 43 people were killed and more than 100 injured in bomb attacks on two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, in the latest assault on a religious minority increasingly targeted by Islamist militants.

Islamic State was responsible for the bombings, the group's news agency Amaq said. "A group that belongs to Islamic State carried out the two attacks on the churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria," Amaq said.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100km outside Cairo, killed at least 25 and injured at least 78, Egypt's Ministry of Health said.

The second, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 11, including three police officers, and injuring 35, the ministry added.

Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark's Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but was not harmed, the Ministry of Interior said.

[caption id="attachment_57305" align="aligncenter" width="800"]ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY Egyptians look at victims after suicide bomber in front of a church in Alexandria, Egypt, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Fawzy Abdel Hamied TEMPLATE OUT. Egyptians look at victims after suicide bomber in front of a church in Alexandria, Egypt[/caption]

Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail are set to visit the Tanta site on Sunday and Sisi has ordered an emergency national defence council meeting, state news reported.

'We feel targeted'

A shift in IS tactics, which has waged a low-level conflict for years in the Sinai peninsula against soldiers and police, to targeting Christian civilians and broadening its reach into Egypt's mainland is a potential turning point in a country trying to prevent a provincial insurgency from spiralling into wider sectarian bloodshed.

Egypt's Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014, ruthlessly targeting religious minorities. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians working in Libya were killed by Islamic State.

"Of course we feel targeted, there was a bomb here about a week ago but it was dismantled. There's no security," said another Christian woman in Tanta referring to an attack earlier this month near a police training centre that killed one policeman and injured 15.

Copts face regular attacks by Muslim neighbours, who burn their homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of a church.

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