ISIL says it was behind two bomb blasts that killed dozens of Coptic Christians in Egypt on Sunday, as they marked Palm Sunday ahead of Easter.
In Tanta and in Alexandria, church services on one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar ended in carnage.
At least 27 people died and nearly 80 were injured in the first explosion in the northern Nile Delta city of Tanta.
Officials say the blast hit the front rows of St George’s Coptic Church. It remains unclear whether a bomb was hidden in the building or whether a suicide bomber was responsible.
Media reports from Egypt say two explosive devices were defused at a mosque in Tanta with a Sufi shrine on Sunday. ISIL views followers of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, as heretics.
Muslim #Egyptians donate blood to deadly church blast victims https://t.co/57qDM0QMpb pic.twitter.com/G377MFNNLk— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) 9 avril 2017
Following the carnage at St. George’s in the city, the local security chief is said to have been relieved of his duties.
Hours after the Tanta explosion, came another blast in front of a Christian church in Alexandria.
Reports quoting the interior ministry on Sunday afternoon said 18 people had died and some 40 were injured in that suicide bombing outside St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.
ISIL’s local branch in Egypt has stepped up attacks on the country’s minority Christians in recent months and also said it was behind the deadly bombing in December of Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral.
The latest blasts come ahead of a visit to Egypt by Pope Francis, scheduled for the end of this month. He condemned the bloodshed in Egypt at his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope condemns #Egypt blast, decrying war, terrorism and weaponshttps://t.co/oUyyl0YhR4 pic.twitter.com/zH3CijffS0— Ahram Online (@ahramonline) 9 avril 2017