Egypt president declares state of emergency

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayyeb, said in a statement that "attacks against places of worship go against the authentic Islamic religion and its teachings of tolerance, but fail to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people".

They also raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Roman Catholic Pope Francis planned for April 28-29.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometers outside Cairo, killed at least 25 and injured at least 78, Egypt's Ministry of Health said.

The pontiff expressed his "deep condolences" to the Coptic patriarch, Tawadros II, calling him "my brother", to the Coptic Church and "all of the dear Egyptian nation", and said he was praying for the dead and injured in the attack that occurred just hours earlier as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail are set to visit the Tanta site on Sunday and Sisi has ordered an emergency national defence council meeting, state news reported.

The bombings come as Islamic State's branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up attacks and threats against Christians. The blast killed 16, including three police officers, and injured 41, according to reports. Preliminary investigations point to a bomb that might have been planted under a seat in the main hall of the church.

"We're in God's hands, whether we're in Seattle or in Egypt or even in heaven", Wahba said.

"How has the bomb gone inside?" said Wahby, Egyptian Christian.

President Trump tweeted about the terrorism saying that the US strongly condemns the attacks and that he is confident that President Al Sisi will handle the situation properly.

Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage. "Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe", another Christian woman, Vivian Fareeg, said. Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Islamic State has waged a low-level war against soldiers and police in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula for years but is now targeting Christians and broadening its reach into Egypt's mainland.

A day after the Palm Sunday bloodshed, the Interior Ministry said it killed seven Islamic State militants in an exchange of gunfire during a security operation in the southern city of Assiut. "It's a disturbing development because it indicates we have the possibility of repeated and continued attacks against soft targets".

"They don't differentiate between Muslims and Christians they want to create havoc". It posted photos of corpses lying next to weapons and said IS publications were found with them.

"How much longer are these people going to exist?" Security forces violently dispersed demonstrations in the months that followed, killing hundreds of protesters.

  • Leroy Wright