The death toll continues to climb following two separate bombing attacks on Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Sunday morning.
The Egyptian health ministry said 29 people were now confirmed dead in the blast at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the city of Tanta. A second explosion, about two and a half hours later, has killed at least 18 people in Alexandria at the Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, local media reports.
Sources said that Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also left dozens injured.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi condemned attacks that were meant to destabilize the fabric of the nation, and immediately called a meeting of security officials in their wake. The president also announced three days of national mourning.
Roman Catholic Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Cairo at the end of April to show support for Egyptian Christians, acknowledged the Palm Sunday attacks while appearing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. He extended his condolences to the Egyptian people and his support of Coptic spiritual leader Pope Tawadros II, who was inside the Alexandria cathedral during the explosion but remains unharmed.
The bombings were widely condemned by religious and international leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad El-Hariri called the attack on Egyptian Christians an attack on all religions.
Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million people, and are increasingly the targets of extremist attacks motivated by religion. A December 2016 church attack claimed 25 lives and was considered the worst such attack since 2011.