An Islamic State affiliate claimed a December suicide bombing at a Cairo church that killed about 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the northern Sinai that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.
The Copts trace their history to the dawn of Christianity, when Egypt was integrated into the Roman and later the Byzantine empire.
Bomb blasts tore through crowds celebrating the holy Christian holiday of Palm Sunday in two Egyptian cities, killing at least 44 worshipers and injuring scores more.
Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church next to shredded wooden benches.
An explosion hit a Coptic Christian Church in Tanta on Palm Sunday, killing 25 and wounding 60 according to state TV. Palm Sunday is observed a week before Easter Sunday, and is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar as it marks Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Later, a suicide bomber killed at least 13 and wounded 35 at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.
Making up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million, the Coptic Orthodox form the largest Christian denomination in the Muslim-majority country.
About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after ISIS in February called for attacks on the minority.
The attack comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt. “United States strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly”, Trump wrote on his official Twitter account. “Unfortunately, it seems like we are getting used to such attacks”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attacks in a separate statement, expressing hope that the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice. Since Morsi’s removal, Egypt has been plagued by militant attacks.
The next month, security forces used deadly force to break up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.
Sisi also ordered troops be immediately deployed to assist police in securing vital facilities, a rare move for the general-turned-president, who as defence chief led the military’s 2013 ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi.
A few months earlier, the unclaimed New Year’s Day bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in second city Alexandria.