Bombings at Coptic churches kill dozens, injure more than 100
RIYADH/CAIRO — An official source at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the blasts at Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Sunday in which at least 36 people were killed and more than 100 injured.
The source said these cowardly acts of terrorism are contrary to all religious principles and moral and humanitarian values. He offered condolences to the families of the victims, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometers outside Cairo, killed at least 25 and injured at least 78, Egypt’s Ministry of Health said.
The second, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 11, including three police officers, and injuring 35, the ministry added.
Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but was not harmed, the Ministry of Interior said.
Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage.
“There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered,” said a Christian woman who was inside the church.
“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” another Christian woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.
Egyptian officials denounced the attack as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Pope Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II.
“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.
The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar.
Francis, who is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29, offered prayers for the victims. “Let us pray for the victims of the attack unfortunately carried out today,” he said in an Angelus prayer.
“May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them.”
Reacting before the second bombing in Alexandria, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called the attack in Tanta “a failed attempt against our unity”. “Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.
The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilize security and… the unity of Egyptians”. — Agencies