An explosion rocked a church in the northern part of Cairo, Egypt, on Palm Sunday killing over two dozen worshippers, according to several reports. Dozens were wounded in the bomb blast that appears to be a direct attack on Coptic Christians in the region, officials said. Just hours later, a suicide bombing reportedly took place in front of another Egyptian Christian church.
According to USA Today, at least 25 church worshippers are dead and 71 others were wounded at a church located in the Nile Delta town of Tanta. This is the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority. The news media outlet reports that the bombing comes only weeks before Pope Francis is slated to visit Egypt.
The bomb that detonated at St. George Coptic church was placed under a seat in the building near the altar and detonated in the main prayer hall, CNN reports. According to CNN, news footage shows worshippers gathered at the church for Palm Sunday mass, singing hymns. Not long after, the video “switches to bars as harrowing screams and cries echo in the background,” the report says.
Egyptian television broadcast images that showed the aftermath of the carnage, including bloodstained walls and demolished wooden benches, according to Yahoo News.
CNN reports that Egyptian Coptic Christians face “persecution and discrimination” that has heightened since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 during the Arab Spring uprising.
Pope Francis condemned the attack, offering his deepest condolences “to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The Pope noted that he is praying for those who lost their lives and those who were wounded in the explosion. Pope Francis further requested that God “…convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence, and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons.”
According to CNN, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the attacks on the Egyptian church were “evil” and asked the public to pray for the victims of the bombing.
French President Fracois Hollande also expressed outrage regarding the violent Palm Sunday attack in a written statement. U.S. News reports that Hollande wrote, “…one more time, Egypt is hit by terrorists who want to destroy its unity and its diversity.” He added that France “mobilizes all its forces in association with the Egyptian authorities in the fight against terrorism” and expressed condolences to the families of the wounded and the dead.
Just hours after the St. George Coptic church bombing, an apparent suicide bombing took place outside St. Mark church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing at least six more people, according to Sunday Express. The report notes that hospitals in the area have been placed on high alert due to the explosion.
The Independent reports that at least 66 people were wounded in the second attack, according to Egypt’s health ministry.
An eyewitness to the St. George Palm Sunday blast, Vivian Fareeg, told Reuters regarding the carnage, “There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe. I saw the intestines of those injured and legs severed entirely from their bodies.”
Another woman who was also inside the church at the time the explosion took place told Reuters, “There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered.”
Reuters reports that Coptic Christians in Egypt face “regular attacks by Muslim neighbors, who burn their homes and churches” typically due to upset over a romance or relationship that involves “inter-faith” partners or the building of a new church in the region.
[Featured Image by Nariman El-Mofty/AP Photo]