Death toll rises following Egypt church bombings on Palm Sunday

The second attack came just after Pope Tawadros II - leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria - finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.

Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in different cities in northern Egypt as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people and wounding about 100 in an assault claimed by ISIS.

Egypt's Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants in recent years.

Egypt's Health Ministry said an explosion at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria killed 17 people and wounded at least 48 others.

ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Alexandria's St Mark's Cathedral, the historical seat of Christianity in Egypt, was targeted several hours later, killing at least 16 people and injuring 31, the Independent reported.

However, other sources suggest that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has called a three-month state of emergency.

"The attack.will only harden the determination (of Egyptians) to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development", said President Sisi, who has sought to present himself as a bastion against terrorism despite hefty criticism of his political suppression.

Mr Sisi made a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council to discuss the explosions.

The government of Egypt has declared a state of emergency in the country.

Three policemen were among those killed in the attack.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the blasts in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday. Addressing the Palm Sunday mass in Rome, the Pope said, "I pray for the dead and the victims".

A police officer and a policewoman, as well a low-ranking police officer, were killed while preventing the suicide bomber from entering the cathedral, the ministry said. Egyptian state media also reports that the head of Egypt's Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II was inside the Church when the blast happened.

Security forces were deployed across the country following the attacks.

Turkey's ministry of foreign affairs also published a statement denouncing the attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, which killed at least 26 people. "God convert the hearts of the people who spread terror, violence and dead, and also the heart of who produces and traffic weapons", the Pope said.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he is "so sad to hear of the terrorist attack" against the US ally but added that he has "great confidence" that el-Sissi, "will handle the situation properly".

The bombings occurred on Palm Sunday, a Christian feast that commemorates the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

  • Julie Sanders