13 killed in Egypt church explosion, local reports say

The attack took place on Palm Sunday the start of the Holy Week leading up to Easter when the church in the Nile Delta tow

Though Copts have in the past faced attacks by Muslim neighbours, who have burnt their homes and churches in poor rural areas, the Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014 and ruthlessly going after religious minorities.

A second explosion has killed at least 11 people at a church in Alexandria, hours after a bomb at another church north of Cairo killed dozens of worshipers.

"I just felt fire grabbing my face".

The ministry said Tawadros was unharmed, and a church official said he had left the church before the bombing.

Susan Mikhail, whose apartment balcony across the street has a clear view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building.

Eyewitnesses said a police officer detected the bomber before he blew himself up.

Citing Health Minister Ahmed Emad, ON TV news channel said at least 18 people, including police personnel, were killed while 41 others injured in Alexandria's suicide attack.


Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his "deep condolences" to Tawadros. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for that attack.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned the attacks and summoned the National Defence Council to an urgent session. Gen. Tarek Hassouna replacing him, state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported. In December, 25 people died when a bomb exploded during Sunday mass in Cairo, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported.

News footage from Tanta shows people gathering at the church, singing hymns. Palm Sunday is a feast that takes place seven days before Easter and marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. He is scheduled to visit Egypt at the end of April.

Islamic State said two of its fighters wearing suicide vests carried out the attacks, and it warned of more to come.

The attacks in Tanta and in Alexandria were the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the country's 90 million population and has been repeatedly targeted by terrorist groups.

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 "a terrorist organization".

The bombing of the church within a compound that also holds the seat of the Coptic papacy was the deadliest attack against the minority in recent memory.

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