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At least 49 killed in Palm Sunday church blasts

09 April 2017
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Please note that this is an emerging news story and the figures and facts may change over time. We will post the updates at the top of this story.

UPDATE (16 April 2017): Number of dead risen to 49. Churches hold solmn Easter Sunday celebrations amid tightened security.

UPDATE (13 April 2017): Two widowed by Palm Sunday bombings share memories of their husbands.

UPDATE (11 April 2017): Number of dead risen to 45.

Egyptian Christians have asked for prayer after at least 44 people died following blasts on two churches on Palm Sunday (9 April), in northern Egypt.

The first blast exploded inside Mar Girgis (St. George's) Coptic Orthodox church in Tanta, in Gharbiya governorate in the Nile Delta region, Middle East Concern (MEC) report. At least 27 people were killed in the attack and, according to the Ministry of Health, 71 people were injured.

Later in the morning, a suicide bomber was intercepted by police and detonated his device outside St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria. Included amongst the 17 killed were several police officers. MEC report that Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadrous II was presiding over the Palm Sunday celebrations in the cathedral, but he is reported to be unharmed.

Islamic State claims responsibility

Militant Islamist group Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, IS declared: "Crusaders and their apostate allies should know the bill between us and them is very big and they will pay it with rivers of blood from their children, god willing. Wait for us, for we will wait for you."

Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced a three-month state of emergency.

The bombings have come just weeks before Roman Catholic Pope Francis was due to visit Egypt to show his support to the Christians there, who make up around 10 per cent of Egypt's population.

It also follows an attack in December 2016, where an IS suicide bomber struck a chapel adjoining the Coptic Orthodox cathedral of St Mark in Cairo, leaving 28 dead.

In February 2017, dozens of Christian families fled the Sinai after a series of killings and kidnappings by IS-linked groups. That month, IS also released a propaganda video, vowing to wipe out Egypt's Coptic Christians and 'liberate Cairo'.

A prayer for Egypt

An Open Doors contact in Egypt has written a prayer in response to yesterday's attacks:

We love Egypt,

We will not leave Egypt,

We cast out the spirit of fear by the power of His love,

We will go to churches on Easter and beyond to worship the name of Jesus,

We will spread out the light we were given by His grace, in every street, village, town and city,

We will keep praying for all Egyptians, especially for those dark minded, brainwashed and misled so our Father may cleanse their minds and hearts.

Persecution in Egypt

Egypt ranks as number 21 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List.

Egypt's Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants. In 2013 the Egyptian military removed President Mohammed Morsi, the elected leader who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of Mr Morsi's supporters blame Christians for supporting his removal.

More News from egypt:

Find out more about persecution in Egypt