Two Egyptian churches witnessed serious explosions amid celebrations of Palm Sunday in what has been largely viewed as a security fiasco. News agencies reported that the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the two attacks through its news agency Amaq.
At least 27 people were killed and 78 injured in an explosion targeting Mar Girgis Church in Tanta on Sunday morning. The number of victims has been increasing throughout the day, according to reports by the Ministry of Health and the media.
Reports of the incident emerged around 10 am. Early reports published by state-media said the bomb was planted in the first row of the church’s praying room.
The Ministry of Interior published an initial statement asserting the crime scene was cordoned, but there was no further information on details of the alleged attack. However, unconfirmed reports said that the Gharbeya security chief was dismissed.
A relative of one of the victims spoke to Daily News Egypt over the phone, saying her second cousin, a clergyman, was accompanied by his family of seven members at the church.
“We don’t know their whereabouts yet, but we were informed that the cleric was killed. This means that the explosion might have occurred at the church’s altar because he was standing in the first row,” Gladys Hadad said.
She described the church as a “large institution,” wondering how the attacker got inside, pointing out to the concerning fact that security forces had recently safely detonated a bomb in the same church.
On 29 March, a bomb was detonated at the very same church. This was, however, not the only attack in Tanta in recent weeks.
“The coincidence of the attacks reflects meticulous plans,” commented Hadad. She asserted that the suffering tourism industry had made progress, such that companies expected to reopen next October, but these hopes were now shredded.
Not only has Tanta been under attack, but the bombing, which was followed by another attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, minutes after Pope Tawadros II left the place following his sermon.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for an ongoing emergency meeting with members of the National Defense Council.
In a condemning statement, Al-Sisi said that the terrorist attack targeted both the country’s Christian and Muslim people. “This will never destroy the will of the Egyptian people to face powers of evil,” Al-Sisi stated.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail headed a delegation of ministers on their way to Gharbeya. Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadeq also went to inspect the scene of the attack. Security forces stopped photojournalists, arriving Sunday afternoon, from accessing the church.
This comes as state-media reported that the National Security apparatus collected security camera footage from stores surrounding the church.
The local El-Tahrir news website had published photos showing the security cordon around Tanta’s Mar Girgis church on 29 March, reporting bomb squads had worked on detonating explosives.
On 1 April, a security forces training camp in Tanta was bombed, resulting in the death of a police officer, and the injury of 12 other officers and two civilians.
The following day, local media reported that a bomb was detonated in Tanta University in front of the Faculty of Commerce.
More generally, the two attacks during holy celebrations follow come months after the IS-claimed bombing of St.Peter and St.Paul’s Church in Abbassiya. This comes as IS-affiliated groups have performed operations in North Sinai driving hundreds of primarily Coptic families out of their homes.