UPDATE: The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for two bombings in Egypt on Palm Sunday that claimed the lives of at least 37 people.
At least 11 people were killed and 33 injured in an explosion at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria on Sunday, according to a statement by Ministry of Health spokesperson Khaled Megahed. The incident occurred just minutes following the departure of the leader of Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II. Among the dead is the head of the investigation bureau of Al-Attarin district.
The attack came on the came on the same day as the bombing at Mar Girgis (St. George) Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta. The church was full of worshippers who had come to celebrate Palm Sunday. At least 26 were killed and another 71 wounded. Nine of the dead were reportedly priests.
These two attacks are the latest in a string of assaults on Christians in Egypt, who make up but 10 percent of the country’s population of 92 million. They came just days after a visit to President Trump from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and weeks before a scheduled visit by Pope Francis.
Television coverage of the attack showed scores bloodied corpses and wounded, including women and children within the church, which is located in a small town in the Nile Delta. No party has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, the Muslim Brotherhood -- which was founded in Egypt and briefly held power under President Mohammed Morsi -- has long been involved in acts of terrorism and persecution directed at Christians. Muslim terrorists have battled Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and are now feared to be directing their focus on civilians.
Christians largely supported Morsi’s overthrow in 2013, thus inspiring revenge among Muslim terrorists.
In response to the attack, Pope Francis expressed "deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation." New of the bomb attack came as the pontiff was celebrating Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square.
A group affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed 30 worshippers, most of whom were women. A series of killings in northern Sinai have led hundreds of Christians to flee. Describing Christians as “infidels” in a recently-released video, the ISIS-affiliated terrorists vowed to kill more Christians. The group has also claimed responsibility for shooting down a Russian passenger jet in 2015. All 224 passengers and crew on the plane died, wreaking havoc on Egypt’s tourist industry.
An April 1 bomb attack on a police training facility in Tanta has been claimed by a terrorist group called Liwa al-Thawra. That attack wounded 16 people. The group is believed to be affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, targeting security forces while claiming that it has not harmed Christians.
Videos below show the moments of the bomb's detonation. GRAPHIC: