World

TANTA, Egypt – At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 injured in bomb attacks on two Coptic churches in northern Egypt, state media said on Sunday.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometres outside Cairo, killed at least 27 and injured at least 78, Egypt’s Ministry of Health said.

The second, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17, including three police officers, and injuring 35, the ministry added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which come a week before Coptic Easter and in the same month that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt.

The explosion occurred as Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt. While most Copts live in Egypt, the Church has about a million members outside the country.

Militants accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

In December last year, 25 people died when a bomb exploded at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo during a service.

And in February, militants from the Islamic State group warned of more attacks against Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population.