Photos by Jonathan Rashad
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Twin bombings claimed the lives of over 40 in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria Sunday April 9 as Church goers gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday. Among those killed were four police officers, including three women. The attack, the Islamic State claimed (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), comes after a similar attack in Cairo in December in which almost 30, mostly women, were killed, in what has been described as a systematic campaign against the country’s Christian population after a shift in ISIS’ strategy.
Both attacks were reportedly carried out by suicide bombers. In Alexandria, early reports that a police officer hugged the attacker to shield church-goers was disproven by CCTV footage showing him attempting to enter the church through a metal detector, and self-detonating at that moment. Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros was leading prayers in the church in Alexandria, and is believed to have been targeted in the attack, but was not among those killed.
In Tanta, the attacker was able to enter the church, with survivors of the blast questioning why security seemed lax given that security forces were aware that just days before, the church had been targeted by an unsuccessful bombing.
As ISIS attacks spread beyond Sinai, where they have primarily taken place over the past three years, mourners gather in Tanta and Cairo to grieve over the victims. The government declared a three-month state of emergency, while anger mounts among the Coptic community. One church-goer in Tanta told Ahram Online she survived only because she arrived late to the service. “Where are these security measures and dogs to detect explosives charges?” she asked. Another Coptic Egyptian living in Cairo said, “We need more security… Of course we are targeted, and of course the government knows we are targeted, so why don’t they protect us? We are feeling hurt and let down by the government.” The head of security in the province of Gharbiya was mobbed by an angry crowd in Tanta before he was sacked. There have also been calls for the interior minister’s resignation.