At least 49 worshippers were killed on Palm Sunday when two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt exploded in bomb attacks which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for, according to state media.
State media said at least 27 people were killed and 78 others were injured when a bomb exploded last Palm Sunday at the main prayer hall of St. George's Church in Tanta, Egypt. A few moments after, a suicide attack outside St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria killed 18 civilians and four police officers. Many were also injured in the blast, CNN relays.
In the wake of the two deadly church blasts, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced a three-day nationwide mourning and a three-month state of emergency after certain legal measures are implemented. Egypt will also organize an anti-terror supreme council, the president announced on state television on Sunday after a National Defense Council meeting was held.
"We have to pay attention because of Egypt and Egypt's future. We know this is a big sacrifice but we are capable of facing it," Sisi explained in a statement. "The attack will not undermine the resolve and true will of the Egyptian people to counter the forces of evil, but will only harden their determination to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development."
ISIS, on the other hand, issued a statement via the Telegram messaging platform and said the suicide bombers behind the Palm Sunday attacks were Egyptian nationals. Authorities, however, have not yet confirmed this information. The militant group also warned of more attacks in the future.
"The Crusaders and their apostate followers must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large, and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God is willing," ISIS said in Arabic in the Telegram statement.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis expressed sorrow over the latest attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt. During his Sunday address, the pontiff prayed that God will "convert the hearts" of terrorists and weapons dealers, Crux reports.
Pope Francis is set to visit the Al-Azhar Mosque and University in Egypt on April 28 and 29. He will also meet with Pope Tawadros II during his trip there.