History of attacks against Christians

Earlier today, Tanta, Egypt was added to the growing list of places marred by terror this year. During the worship service at St Mary’s Church, where Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, an explosive device ripped hall killing 25 and injuring 60 others.
Hours later, another suicide-related explosion outside St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria killed another 16 and wounded 41 people. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Two Islamic state militants, Abu Al-Baraa Al-Masri and Abu Ishaaq Al-Masri, have been linked to the attacks. Nile and Masriya TV, which are state-controlled media outlets, illustrated black banners in the upper left of their newscasts as a sign of mourning for the victims of the tragedy.

In Tanta, the news showed people gathering at the church singing hymns. The video then switches to bars as chilling screams and cries echoed in the background after the explosion. Peter Kamel, who saw the aftermath, said “Everything is destroyed inside the church” and blood can be seen on marble pillars.”

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The interior ministry claimed in a statement that police assigned to St Mark’s had actually caught up to one of the suspects with a suicide and stopped them from breaking into the church, but did not stop the secondary blast which resulted in deaths of both police and civilian bystanders.

History of attacks against Christians

These incidents were the latest acts of aggression against Christians in the region who are increasingly feeling targeted. Christians in Egypt comprise 10 percent of the state’s 90-million population and are the largest Christian minority segment in the Middle East. This is not the first recorded instance of discriminatory killings this year in Egypt. In February, numerous families and students had to flee the North Sinai province after a series of religion-related killings.

The Islamic state has declared a low-level war against soldiers and police in the Sinai Peninsula for years and now it seems to be changing tact by targeting Christian civilians and broadening its reach to the Egyptian mainland.

This is a potential turning point for a nation that is trying to prevent a provincial insurgency from spiraling into more than a sectarian conflict. Though the Coptic Christians have previously been at the receiving end of attacks from their Muslim neighbors that have burnt their homes and churches in the rural regions, they are increasingly feeling insecure since the Islamic state spread through Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Leaders around the world respond

The Islamic state attack in Tanta and Alexandria has drawn outcry from religious and political leaders around the globe.The Pope was scheduled to visit the capital city, Cairo this month where he was to meet with leaders of the Coptic orthodox church.

Upon news of the attack, he released the following statement, “To my dear brother his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic church and to all of the dear country Egypt, I express my deep condolences, I prayed for the dead and the wounded, I am close to the families and to the entire community. God convert the hearts of the people who spread terror, violence and dead, and also the heart of who produces and traffic weapons.”

President Donald Trump was also among those concerned by the attacks and tweeted “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack but added that President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, would handle the situation adequately.”

[More: Trump Ordered Airstrikes on Syrian Regime: Pours Gasoline on a Volatile Situation]

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