Second Palm Sunday bombing hits Coptic church in Alexandria
A second explosion has killed at least 17 people a church in Alexandria, hours after a bomb at another church north of Cairo killed dozens of worshipers.
The blast outside St. Mark's church in the coastal city of Alexandria on Sunday killed at least six people and wounded 40 in the second Palm Sunday attack on Coptic Christians, the Egyptian Health Ministry announced.
An earlier blast at a church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed at least 27 people and wounded 78 in an apparent attack on Coptic worshippers.
A The New Arab correspondent reported that a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Alexandria church, where Pope Tawadros II had been attending Palm Sunday mass.
A church official told local media that the Pope had not been harmed in the attack and had left the church before the blast went off.
State media said that at least two policemen had been killed in the Alexandria attack.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for bombings of the two Egyptian churches.
"Islamic State squads carried out the attacks on two churches in Tanta and Alexandria," said the group's Amaq news agency in a statement published on social media accounts.
|Copts make up about one tenth of Egypt's population [Twitter]|
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months.
Pope Francis is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29 to show solidarity with Egypt's Christian community. Some experts have said the attack may be an attempt to force a cancellation.
In December, a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group killed 29 worshippers during Sunday mass in Cairo.
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.
A spate of Islamic State group-linked attacks in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of al-Arish whose house was also burned, have led some Coptic families to flee their homes.
About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after IS released a video in February calling for attacks on the religious minority.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a National Defence Council meeting in response to the attacks on Sunday, according to state TV.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called Sunday's bombing "a failed attempt against our unity".
"Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday," he tweeted.