ISIS claimed responsibility for bombings that killed 37 at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday -- brazen strikes against a vulnerable minority on one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.
Published: Sunday 9th April 2017
The terror group's Amaq media wing said "a security detachment" of the Islamic State carried out the attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The bombings also left scores wounded.
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CNN could not independently confirm ISIS was behind the attacks -- or had any prior knowledge in planning them. ISIS often uses Amaq news agency to claim attacks after they have happened.
The first blast was in the northern city of Tanta, when a powerful explosion ripped through a Palm Sunday service at St George's Church, killing 25 people and wounding 60 others, state TV reported. The explosive device was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall, it said.
At least 11 people were killed and 35 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack outside Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, according to two state-news outlets. Egyptian state media also reports that the head of Egypt's Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II was inside the Church when the blast happened. He was not injured.
Rescue workers help a victim of the attack in Alexandria.
The horrific attacks were the latest against Christians in the region, this time on Palm Sunday -- the Sunday before Easter, and the day that marks the start of Holy Week for Christians.
Nile and Masriya TV, Egyptian state outlets, aired black banners in the upper left of its newscasts to signify mourning for the victims of both explosions.
In Tanta, news footage shows people gathered at the church, singing hymns. The video then quickly switches to bars as harrowing screams and cries echo in the background.
"Everything is destroyed inside the church" and blood can be seen on marble pillars, said Peter Kamel, who saw the aftermath of the carnage.
It appeared the explosive device was placed near the altar, he said. Priests and the church choir were among the casualties.