ISIS detonated two lethal bomb blasts targeting Christians who were celebrating Palm Sunday at Coptic churches in Egypt, killing at least 45 worshipers and wounding some 126 more.
One of the explosions was reportedly triggered by a bomb planted beneath a seat in the main hall of St. George’s Coptic Church in the northern Egyptian city of Tanta, where 27 were killed and another 78 were injured during a Palm Sunday service, a state television report announced, according to Fox News.
The other blast occurred outside Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt, where a jihadist suicide bomber detonated a suicide bomb that slaughtered 17 people and wounded an additional 48, as reported by two Egyptian news outlets. Egypt’s Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II was inside the church when the explosive device detonated outside and was not injured, the state media indicated. The ministry told The Associated Press that at least three police officers were fatally wounded in this attack.
It is apparent that the two bombings were strategically planned by the Islamic terrorist group, ISIS, as Townhall reports that Palm Sunday is one of the most important days of the year for the Coptic Christian Church. A report published in February by Fox News quotes ISIS as declaring that “Christians are our favorite prey.”
The jihadist group made good on its recent promise to increase its merciless slaughter in the name of the Islamic god, Allah.
“ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group's recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as ‘infidels’ empowering the West against Muslims,” Fox News reported. “The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt – the Arab world's most populous country.”
Terrorist sponsoring and harboring nations were blamed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who did not specifically name any specific countries.
"Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt," el-Sisi proclaimed after giving the order for his military to immediately assist police in making sure crucial facilities throughout the nation were secure, according to Fox News.
A three-month state of emergency was soon declared by el-Sisi Sunday night after a majority of the parliament voted on the measure.
U.S. stands by Egypt
President Donald Trump was quick to send his condolences to Egypt’s president – who visited him at the White House a week before the attack to strategize ways to defeat Islamic militant groups, including ISIS. He also tweeted his condemnation of the Islamic terrorists responsible for the carnage.
“So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns. I have great … confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly,” the commander-in-chief proclaimed on Twitter via his first and second tweets following the attacks.
ISIS’s two deadly blasts targeting Christians were also condemned by Trump’s State Department, with officials calling the evil carnage “barbaric” in nature.
"The United States will continue to support Egypt's security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism," the State Department’s official announcement about the attacks read, according to Fox News.
Carnage at the hands of ISIS was all too familiar to Egyptians in recent months.
“In December, the Islamic State asserted responsibility for a bombing at Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral complex that killed at least 25 people and wounded 49,” the Washington Post recounted. “It marked a shift in the Islamic State’s strategy, making Christians a primary target in their campaign against the government. More recently, hundreds of Christians fled Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula after militants aligned with the Islamic State affiliate there killed several who were attacked in their homes or in drive-by shootings. In a video, the Sinai-based affiliate warned that it would escalate attacks against the nation’s Christians.”
Numerous Egyptian casualties resulting from anti-Christian attacks have been going on in the northeastern African nations for years.
“Over the past six years, numerous attacks on Christians have left scores dead,” the Washington daily added. “On Jan. 1, 2011, the Church of Saints Mark and Peter in Alexandria was bombed, killing 23 people as they left the New Year’s Day service. Ten months later, Egypt’s security forces killed 28 Christians protesting the demolition of a church, claiming the protesters first attacked them. In 2013, Christians were targeted in a spate of attacks after Morsi was ousted in a military coup.”
Ironically, Bishop Emmanuel, the Catholic archbishop of Egypt, expressed to the media at a news conference on Friday – just a couple days before the latest church bombings – that Pope Francis’ impending visit was intended to communicate to the world that Egypt is a safe nation.
“The pope is scheduled to meet with Sissi and leaders of the country’s Catholic diocese,” the Post announced. “And in an effort to improve relations between Muslims and Christians, the pope is also expected to meet with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, a centuries-old mosque and university that is widely respected by Sunni Muslims.”
More to come?
The Islamic State was quick to claim responsibility for attack that took place outside the Alexandria church.
“In a statement issued on the Telegram messaging platform and circulated by several ISIS supporters, the militant group identified the suicide bombers as Egyptian nationals,” CNN reported. “Egyptian authorities have not confirmed the bombers' nationalities.”
ISIS also relayed a clear message that it has no intention of ending the violence and killings any time soon.
"The Crusaders and their apostate followers must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large, and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if [g]od is willing," the jihadist organization communicated via a statement written in Arabic, according to CNN.
Still in disbelief
Laurice Mikhaiel, a 60-year-old resident who lives across the street from St. George’s Coptic Church in Tanta, found it hard to believe how ISIS could smuggle, plant and detonate a bomb inside the church during Mass – as both police officers and local authorities were said by witnesses to take extensive preventative measures to ensure that there were no holes in the security during the Palm Sunday service.
“It is beyond my comprehension how they could leave such a bomb inside the church,” Mikhaiel shared, according to the Post. “We churchgoers get inspected as we come in and out. There is always security present.”
Another local, 42-year-old Victor Fathy, was mortified to discover that his cousin, Raouf Salib, who is survived by his two children, was killed in the blast. Fathy said that a number of witnesses informed him that they saw a suicide bomber.
“[The] walls were covered with blood and every seat was shattered to pieces,” asserted Fathy while looking down at the floor, the Post reported. “There were no holes in it. It was not a bomb left under the bench.”
Mona Faiez, who was not inside the Tanta church when the bomb went off, received a phone call moments after the explosion to see if she was alive, and she immediately arrived at the scene in a panic to find many of her fellow believers – many of whom were her closest friends – dead.
“The head of the security here told me he had seven policemen standing here to protect the church,” Faiez informed, according to the Washington paper. “What exactly were they doing? How futile!”