Moscow, April 10, 2017
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said he will implement a three-month state of emergency following two deadly terrorist attacks on Palm Sunday, which have left at least 49 dead, reports CNBC.
An explosion inside a Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta left at least 27 dead and 78 injured, according to state news agency Al-Ahram. 18 civilians and four police officers were killed in a second blast in Alexandria when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside another Coptic church, according to CNN.
The president has declared three days of nationwide mourning, adding that the state of emergency will go into effect once the proper legal measures have been taken. He also announced on state television that the country would form a counter-terrorism council.
“The attacks 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,” the President said.
The attacks were presumably timed specifically to Palm Sunday, when the churches would be full with believers. The first bomb went off at St. George’s Church in Tanta, having been placed under one of the seats in the nave. Everything was destroyed inside the church, according to one eyewitness.
Soon afterwards a suicide bomber attempted to enter St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II was serving. Police officers posted at the church stopped the man wearing an explosive belt. Two of them died, along with civilians and other police staff, when the bomb went off.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for this latest in an increasingly-rapid string of attacks, seen as a challenge to the Egyptian president who has pledged to fight terrorism and protect Egypt’s Christian minority. In February, a suicide bomber killed 25 at a Coptic cathedral, followed soon after by a series of targeted killings in Sinai, resulting in much of the Christian population fleeing the area.
The Coptic Church has released a statement regarding Sunday’s attacks, which reads in part:
With great pride, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, the Church of Martyrs, bade her sons farewell, who were martyred today Sunday April 9, 2017, during the liturgy of Palm Sunday. They were carrying the palm leaves, praying and celebrating the commemoration of the entry of Christ, the King of Peace, to the city of Jerusalem, carrying the message of peace, promising the love and peace to all human beings.
Words of sympathy and condolences have been sent from around the world. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wrote to Pope Tawadros:
The faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church are grieving with you and your people. We are united in the face of the common distress that affects cities and villages in various countries these days. Terrorism must be defeated through the concerted efforts of all countries regardless of their adherence to these or those political ideals, views and beliefs, or of their attitude to the current international agenda…
Please convey my words of profound sympathy and support to the relatives and friends of the victims. I am praying fervently for the soonest recovery of all the injured.
A statement from the Romanian Patriarchate reads, “We entreat our Most Merciful God to give rest in His peace and love to the souls of the believers killed during the Palm Sunday prayer and to grant quick recovery to the injured… We intercede God to bring peace in the souls of those troubled by violence and hatred and to protect the sacred gift of human life.”
Despite the efforts of the Egyptian security forces, yesterday’s attacks have Egypt’s Christian population once again asking whether they are truly safe in their homeland.