CAIRO (CBSNEWS/AP) – Suicide bombers struck hours apart at two Coptic churches in northern Egypt, killing 44 people and turning Palm Sunday services into scenes of horror and outrage at the government.
It was the single deadliest day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church in December killed 30 people.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the violence, adding to fears that extremists are shifting their focus to civilians, especially Egypt’s Christian minority.
The attacks in the northern cities of Tanta and Alexandria also left 126 people wounded, and they came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit.
Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic church, was in the Alexandra cathedral at the time of the bombing there but was unhurt, the Interior Ministry said.
Late Sunday night, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called for a three-month state of emergency. According to Egypt’s constitution, parliament must vote in favor of such a declaration — a virtual certainty since it is packed with supporters of the president. It cannot exceed six months without a referendum to extend it.