Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency after ISIS bombed two churches in a horror Palm Sunday attack which left 49 dead and over 100 injured.
The Egyptian cabinet approved a countrywide state of emergency of three months in a statement released on Monday morning.
According to Egypt’s Ministry of Health, the first bombing occured in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometres outside Cairo, killing at least 27 and injuring at least 78, while the second attack was carried out by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, at the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17 people and injuring at least 48.
The bombings come as Islamic State’s branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up attacks and threats against Christians.
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.
Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage.
“There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered,” said a Christian woman who was inside the church.
“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” another Christian woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail visited the Tanta site on Sunday and Sisi has ordered an emergency national defence council meeting.
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.
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.