Churches in southern Egypt will not celebrate Easter

Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in the northern Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing over 40 people and wounding scores more in assaults claimed by the Islamic State group.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's population of 85 million. Another suicide attack killed at least 28 people inside St. George's Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, the Health Ministry said, updating an earlier toll. In Alexandria, 18 civilians and four police officers were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Coptic church, Al-Ahram said.

The White House said Monday that Trump spoke to Sisi on Sunday and conveyed "his deepest condolences to Egypt and to the families who lost loved ones in the heinous terrorist attacks against Christian churches on Palm Sunday".

David Saeed was in the church in Tanta when the bomb detonated, killing at least 27 people, including several friends.

The blast in Egypt's second largest city, which killed 17 including 7 police officers, came hours after a bomb struck a Coptic church in Tanta, a nearby city in the Nile Delta, that took the lives of 28 and wounded almost 80.

Andrew Abdel Shaheed, an Egyptian Copt who lives in Brussels, says he's too afraid to go home to Egypt after the attacks: "The calls for national unity are great, [but] how does it really help?" "I am a Christian till judgment day", they shouted. The footage included statements claiming responsibility for a December attack on a Cairo cathedral that killed 29 people.

"A series of steps will be taken, most importantly, the announcement of a state of emergency for three months after legal and constitution steps are taken", Sisi said in a speech aired on state television.

Rescinding it had been a main demand of Egyptian rights activists during the 2011 revolt that overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak. "They don't want us to pray but we will pray", said Samira Adly, 53, whose neighbors were killed in the attack.

"It's hard to process this idea, that if I had left 20 minutes later, I would have stopped to exist in this world", Sami, 26, told CNN.

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

Coptic Pope Tawadros II was expected to meet with Pope Francis during Pope Francis's visit to Egypt later this month.

Parliament has seven days to approve or reject the state of emergency, but its approval is seen as a foregone conclusion since the legislature is packed with el-Sissi's supporters.

Following the Sunday attacks, Israel closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt over concerns of an "imminent" militant attack there from its anti-terrorism office, according to the Associated Press.

Al-Ahram Arabic reported that security forces also dismantled two explosive devices at Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque in Tanta, a city of more than 400,000 about 80 miles southeast of Alexandria.

  • Ernesto Newman