ISIS bloodies churches in Egypt ahead of Easter
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency
13 April, 2017
Egyptians hold placards calling for the removal of the Governor, the Security chief, and the Interior Minister after the bomb explosion in Tanta.
A policewoman cries at the funeral of her colleague who was in charge of securing the church in Alexandria, and is the first female martyr in the history of the Egyptian Police.
The Egyptian-Israeli border in the Egyptian resort town of Taba was closed out of fear there could be an imminent extremist attack by ISIS.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency on 10 April following bomb attacks on two Coptic churches that killed at least 44 people and wounded around 100 a day earlier. Islamist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks through social media.
Israel closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt as its anti-terrorism office launched a warning and intelligence reported of an "imminent" militant attack there. German services warned that the terrorist threat to foreigners in Egypt is at high level.
The first attack on 9 April was at a Saint George’s church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta north of Cairo. The second one, some hours later, happened outside Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria during a Palm Sunday service, led by Coptic Pope Tawadros II. He had left the church before the blast.The twin attacks were the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up around 10% of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.
The terrorist strikes come just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab country. Condemning the deadly attacks, the Vatican said they would not stop the Pope 's two-day trip to Egypt at the end of April.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the leading centre of learning in Sunni Islam, likewise condemned the attack, calling it a "despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents". A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas rulers also condemned the church bombings.
US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he has "great confidence" that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi "will handle the situation properly".
Speaking to France 24 after the bombings, political analyst Joe Macaron of the Arab Centre in Washington said that it was imperative for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to find a way to "focus more resources on fighting terrorism" rather than continuing to impose his "repressive" rule on society.
The attack adds to fears that Islamic extremists who have long been battling security forces in the Sinai Peninsula may shift their focus to civilians. The Sinai-based IS affiliate has mainly attacked police and soldiers, but they also claimed the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board and devastated Egypt's tourism industry.
In the wake of the latest attacks, Israel's anti-terrorism office called on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to return home immediately and asked Israelis planning trips to the Sinai to cancel. The Israeli government statement says that intelligence information shows "increased activity by Islamic State militants" in Sinai. It adds that with the Islamic State group losing ground in Iraq and Syria, there is renewed "motivation to carry out terror attacks in different arenas at this time."
Southern Sinai, with its pristine beaches and Red Sea coral reefs, has traditionally been a popular Israeli tourist destination.