At least 21 people were killed by an explosion at a Coptic Christian church in northern Egypt during a service to celebrate Palm Sunday, state television reported.
An additional 50 others were wounded in the blast at St. George (Mar Girgis) Coptic church in Tanta, it said.
The explosive device was planted under a seat in the church, where it detonated in the main prayer hall.
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“Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday. Another obnoxious but failed attempt against all Egyptians,” the Foreign Affairs ministry tweeted.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, and marks the start of Holy Week for Christians.
- Egypt: 21 killed in explosion at Coptic Christian church
A bomb has exploded in a Coptic church north of Cairo, killing at least 21 people and wounding 50 others, officials have said.
The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which accounts for about 10% of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attack on Palm Sunday worshippers comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.
CBC TV showed footage from inside the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless bodies covered with papers. Magdi Awad, the head of the provincial ambulance service, confirmed the death toll.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes a week before Easter.
An Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed about 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai peninsula which have led to hundreds of Christians fleeing to safer areas of the country.
A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for the bombing of a police training centre in Tanta on 1 April that left 16 people injured.
The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.
Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.
The explosion in front of a church in Alexandria has injured several people, according to state TV.
The earlier blast targeted St George’s Coptic church in the city of Tanta, about 130km (80 miles) south-east.
Egypt’s Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants in recent years.
The blasts appear to have been timed for maximum impact, as people gathered to mark Palm Sunday.
Egyptian security forces had been put on alert in anticipation of attacks.
After the first explosion, provincial governor Ahmad Deif told the state-run Nile News channel: “Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up.”
General Tarek Atiya, a spokesperson at Egypt’s interior minister, told AFP news agency that the blast in Tanta took place near the altar.
A search is underway for any more explosives which could be in the vicinity.
Pope Francis, who is due to visit Egypt later this month, has condemned the attack.
Also published on Fenixx.org