Dozens Killed As 2 Attacks Target Coptic Christians In Egypt

At least 36 people were killed and scores injured after explosions in two different Egyptian cities at Coptic Christian churches Sunday.

The interior ministry said one of the explosions was a bombing in Mar Gerges church in Tanta, a city in the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta, located between Cairo and Alexandria. The church was full at the time with worshippers observing Coptic Christian Palm Sunday.

Health ministry spokesman Khaled Mujahed told Egyptian state television that at least 25 people were killed and 78 injured.

Just hours later and about 80 miles away in Alexandria, a second explosion outside the Mar Markas church killed 11 people and injured 35 others, Mujahed confirmed to state television.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, through its semi-official Amaq news agency.

Christians make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population, and nearly all Christians are Copts, of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Christians in Egypt have been targeted before in attacks by Islamic extremists. In December, 25 people died when a bomb exploded during Sunday mass in Cairo, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported. At the time it was "the deadliest attack on Egypt's Christian minority in years," he notes.

ISIS has targeted Coptic Christians. The group released a video two years ago appearing to show a mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

And on New Year's Day in 2011, a bombing at a church in Alexandria killed at least 21 people, as NPR's Jane Arraf noted.

In his Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned the attack. He spoke of people who "suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike." He is scheduled to visit Egypt at the end of April.

Ahmed Abuhamda contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

Source: NPR