Egypt church bombings spark crackdown and outrage

The recent bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday have sparked outrage at the government and a crackdown on forces that are trying to destabilize the country.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Relatives of victims react to coffins arriving to the Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017.

The Palm Sunday attacks have been labeled as the worst deadly bombing targeting Christians since the December blast at a Cairo church which left 30 people dead. As of Monday, CBS News pegged the death toll at 44, with 126 injured.

The recent church bombings in Egypt are seen as part of an effort to weaken the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has vowed to improve security in the country but still has not been able to live up to his promise. The church blasts, which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for, have also led el-Sisi to declare a three-month state of emergency.

El-Sisi mobilized elite forces across Egypt to guard key establishments. State media al-Ahram also reported that regional police chief Brig. Gen. Hossam Elddin Khalifa was sacked because of the blasts and has been replaced by Maj. Gen. Tarek Hassouna.

Despite the government's response to the church blasts, people are angry at their leaders because of its apparent neglect. The attacks also drew condemnation from various faith leaders including Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, who described the blasts as "despicable."

"Where is the government?" said Maged Saleh, whose mother was able to escape the blast at the St. George's Church in Tanta. "There is no government!"

"After the explosion, everything became dark from the smoke," Edmond Edward told The Associated Press. "There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives."

Meanwhile, Israel has closed a major border from Sinai to Egypt in the wake of the deadly church bombings. The suspected suicide bombers, identified as Abu al-Baraa al-Masri and Abu Ishaaq al-Masri, were believed to have been trained by jihadists in Syria before crossing back to Egypt, The Telegraph reports.

Pope Francis, who is set to visit Cairo on April 28-29, said a prayer for the victims of the two church blasts in northern Egypt. The pontiff asked God to transform the hearts of terrorists and weapons dealers.