Isis has claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts that struck Coptic churches in Egypt, killing at least 47 people as members of the country’s largest religious minority celebrated Palm Sunday.
A blast in the city of Tanta, about 56 miles (90km) north of Cairo killed 29 and injured 71 as they prayed at the Mar Girgis church according to the Egyptian health ministry. A second blast struck the Egyptian port city of Alexandria three hours later, killing 18 and wounding 35.
Sunday’s bombings were the latest in a series of assaults attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who account for about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attacks on Palm Sunday worshippers comes weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.
Video from the moment the blast struck the Mar Girgis church in Tanta just before 10am on Sunday showed the sounds of a choir gathered to sing hymns celebrating the Christian holy day, rapidly turning to screams of anguish and panic. Egypt’s state television later reported that a bomb planted under one of the pews ripped through the church.
“As I was passing by the Church, I heard a huge blast – I’d never heard a sound like this,” said Salah el Arby, a taxi driver in the town of Tanta. “People began running out of the church – shouting and afraid.”