Cairo: In one of the worst cases of Coptic Christians being targeted in Egypt, two bomb attacks killed at least 43 people from the community and injured 100 others on Saturday. Many of the injured are in critical condition and there is fear of the death toll going up.
The bombings targeted two different Coptic Christian’s places of worship as the community observed Palm Sunday. It is said that for the Coptic Christians this is among the most important occasions in a year.
Palm Sunday is observed among the followers of Coptic Christians with unprecedented fanfare across this largely Muslim Arab nation. It is said that Palm Sunday is actually a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. Usually, the day is celebrated with a procession of the faithful carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. The difficulty of procuring palms in unfavorable climates led to their substitution with branches of native trees, including box, olive, willow, and yew.
In the meantime, as the Christians observed the Palm Sunday across the country, the first explosion, which left 27 dead and 78 injured, ripped through a Palm Sunday service at Mar Girgis (St. George’s) Coptic church in Tanta, a city located 120 km from Cairo, EFE news reported. The explosive device was planted under a seat in the church and was detonated in the main prayer hall.
If that was not enough, another huge bombing took place in the second biggest city of the country. A short time later, a suicide bomb attack outside Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria killed 16 and injured 41 people, according to a Health Ministry statement. In a brief statement released through official news agency Amaq, the Islamic State claimed that the attack had been launched by a “security unit belonging to the Islamic State”.
The entire world came together to condemn the dastardly bomb blasts. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail condemned the attacks on private television channel On TV, adding that the government was determined to end terrorism in the country. “This is an impious terrorist act, but we will eradicate terrorism from Egypt and we are determined to put an end to terrorist groups,” EFE news quoted Ismail as saying.
Coptic Christians make over ten percent of Egypt’s population, were celebrating Palm Sunday, which marks the start of the Holy Week for Christians. This attack comes 20 days before the visit of Pope Francis, who is set to travel to Egypt on April 28. The Pope condemned the attack and publicly prayed for converting the hearts of those who “sow terror, violence and death”. The pontiff was addressing the faithful during the traditional Palm Sunday mass at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City when he was notified of the attack. He offered his condolences to the victims’ families, to those injured and to all Egyptians.
The country has seen a spate of attacks against the community over the last couple of years. Over the past few years, Egypt is struggling to combat a terrorist wave that killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the military removed former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and blacklisted his Muslim Brotherhood group as “terrorist organisation”.