As worshippers in two Egyptian churches gathered to observe Palm Sunday, deadly bombs ripped through their peaceful enclave with devastating consequences. By the time it was over, dead bodies were strewn inside and outside the churches. The explosions killed over 40 and wounded more than 100 people. The President of Egypt has called for a three-month state of emergency in the wake of the bombings.

Explosion at the Saint George church

The first bomb exploded in the Saint George church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta killing 27 and injuring more than 70.

According to eyewitness accounts, the blast appeared to be near the altar. The priest who was conducting the service was injured. An observer who lived across the street spoke to the Associated Press and said that her building shook from the blast. She observed Deacons running out of the church with blood on their robes and many of the more seriously wounded were taken to hospital in private cars. News footage from the church also showed people in the church singing hymns and this was soon cut off and replaced by heart-wrenching screams. One observer said that everything was destroyed in the church.

A second explosion at St Mark's Cathedral

A later explosion rocked St Mark’s Cathedral located in the city of Alexandria killing 17 people and wounding 41.

Pope Tawadros who conducted the Palm Sunday Services, escaped unharmed. A man wearing an explosive belt was prevented from entering the church by Police officers who were on guard outside, according to the Interior Ministry. Police staff and civilians were killed as bombs went off near the church gate. One church member who had left the church after the service said he went back to the area after the explosion and it was covered with smoke and there were bodies and body parts scattered inside and outside the gate.

A struggle for the Coptic minority in Egypt

It’s been an ongoing struggle for the Coptic minority in Egypt and they have often complained that the government does little to protect them. The Copts are one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East and have suffered terrorist attacks in the past. Just last December, 30 people were killed at a Coptic church in Cairo and many killings in Northern Sinai has caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safety.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks which have been condemned by Pope Francis. The Pope expressed, "deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation."