On Palm Sunday, ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks resulting in at least 49 dead and over a 100 more injured. Both occurred at Coptic Christian churches.
The first explosion was at St. George Church in the town of Tanta, where at least 27 were killed and 78 were found injured.
The second explosion was at the St. Mark’s Cathedral, where a suicide bomber attempted to storm the church. 18 were killed and at least 48 were wounded in the attack.
Four officers were murdered in the St. Mark’s terror attack, which occurred just after Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria finished the service. The religious leader was not harmed according to Egypt’s Interior Ministry.
Due to a blood shortage just hours after the attacks, city officials in Tanta made announcements over loud speakers through the city to make a call for blood donations. Hundreds of bags were donated in response.
ISIS announced that they were responsible via Aamaq media agency. The terrorist organization recently released a video vowing to ramp up their attacks on Christians.
“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 God is willing,” warned ISIS in an Arabic statement.
Native Egyptians are known as Copts and are a minority in the country. This religious group only makes up 10% of the population. There have been hundreds, many of which are unreported, of attacks specifically on Christians by terrorists.
Following the bombings, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency. The country will be forming a supreme council to address terrorism and extremism.
“We have to pay attention because of Egypt and Egypt’s future. We know this is a big sacrifice but we are capable of facing it,” said Sisi on the state television Sunday. “The attack will not undermine the resolve and true will of the Egyptian people to counter the forces of evil, but will only harden their determination to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development.”
Sisi also declared three days of nationwide mourning.
Pope Francis is supposed to visit Egypt within the next few weeks and said that he offered “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.”
“On Sunday, Mr. Sisi found himself back on the defensive, deploying troops to protect churches across the country weeks before a planned visit by Pope Francis. Mr. Sisi rushed to assure Christians, who have traditionally been among his most vocal supporters and now fear that he cannot protect them against extremists,” writes The New York Times. “Although Mr. Sisi had already stepped up security at churches, Sunday’s bloodshed underscores the difficulty of stopping suicide attacks. More starkly, it highlighted the failure of Egypt’s powerful intelligence agencies to anticipate a coordinated wave of devastating attacks.”
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that he has “great confidence” in the Egyptian president.
“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,” tweeted Trump.
The State Department also issued a statement.
“The United States will continue to support Egypt’s security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism,” said the State Department in a statement.
However, many Christians are fearful of what is to come and think the government hasn’t effectively protected them.
“I think people will not only be too scared to be inside a church, they will be too scared to pass by one now,” said Mina Mansy, a prominent Christian rights activist to The New York Times. “This will continue to happen because the state is not interested in protecting Christians, or anyone else for that matter. The police’s only job is to crush political opponents. They don’t care about the real terrorists.”
Author’s note: Christians being targeted by terrorists is just part of the larger problem of radical Islam terrorism. This is a reminder that the brutal nature of radical Islam is alive and well and we should be weary of it more than ever.