Egypt's Coptic Church buries seven victims of Alexandria bombing

According to local media, the twin bomb attacks in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria killed at least 44 people and injured more than 120 others. St Peter and St Paul's church in the St Marks Cathedral compound in Cairo witnessed a similar attack in December 2016, in which a suicide bomber was able to enter the church, killing 29 people as they worshipped there by placing a bomb under a pew.

"The attack. will only harden the determination (of the Egyptian people) to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development", President Sisi said in the statement.

The cabinet approved Monday an emergency state declaration for three months to begin today, pending parliamentary approval.

The Palm Sunday bombings struck churches in the port city of Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt, and the city of Tanta.

The group later released a video threatening Egypt's Christians with more attacks.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered troops be deployed across the country to help secure "vital facilities" following the blasts.

The deadly attack occurred on Palm Sunday, which commemorates the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis meant to show support for the country's Christian minority.

Coptic Christians make up about 10% of Egypt's 91 million residents, but have little representation in the country's government - the current parliament is made up of 596 members, just 36 of whom are Christian.

In Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside the church targeted but was not hurt, state media reported. The Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, which has been affiliated with IS and known as "Wilayat Sinai" since late 2014, has claimed responsibility for the majority of the attacks, according to TASS.

In Sinai, IS militants killed seven Copts in January and February, forcing dozens of Christian families to flee the peninsula that borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. "There is constitutional discrimination against civilians", he says, explaining that the country's Christians "are treated as second-class citizens".

Chinese leaders have sent messages of condolences to Egypt, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing. Sisi led the 2013 ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was elected to replace the deposed Hosni Mubarak.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to "destabilise security and. the unity of Egyptians". "This terrorist attack is devoid of all the principles of humanity and civilisation", it said in a statement.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said that he hoped that "the perpetrators of this horrific terrorist act will be swiftly identified and brought to justice". Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before the Easter.

  • Leroy Wright