The death toll of the attack on Alexandria’s Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral on Sunday rose to 18, while 40 were injured, according to the Ministry of Health.
This came during Palm Sunday, which marks a holy day for Christians.
The explosion took place a few minutes after the departure of the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, whose presence to head the prayers at the cathedral was announced in the media.
Media reports confirmed that the pope is safe. Official reports and eyewitnesses confirmed that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber outside the cathedral.
A terrorist wearing an explosive belt was attempting to enter the cathedral at 9.00am, but when security forces at the gate stopped him, he detonated his explosives immediately, resulting in the killing of 18 people, including a police officer, a non-commissioned police officer, and one female police officer, according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior.
The police victims included police officer Ahmed Ibrahim, major Nagwa El-Haggar, and the head of the investigation bureau of Attarin district, who died while preventing the attacker from entering the cathedral.
High-ranking security officers arrived at the scene and imposed security measures. Emergency cars also arrived at the scene to transfer the injured to hospital.
A few hours earlier, another explosion hit a Coptic church in Tanta, leaving 25 killed and 71 injured.
Amid the aftermath of the two attacks, news outlets on their social media pages had circulated news about another attack. However, the Ministry of Interior denied that and stated that this is just false information.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail condemned the attacks. The Prosecutor-General ordered an investigation into the attack. A number of western and Arab leaders condemned the attack and sent their condolences to the Egyptian government.
The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for both attacks amid previous threats of targeting Copts in Egypt. Previously, IS claimed responsibility for the attack on St. Peter and St. Paul Church, killing at least 29 people on 11 December.
Copts in Egypt have recently been suffering from regular IS attacks. Coptic citizens in North Sinai have suffered from kidnappings and killings by militants.
The attacks occurred weeks before the scheduled visit of Pope Francis, the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, who will meet President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and heads of the main religious institutions in Cairo on 28 and 29 April.
The Alexandria attack today was compared to the bombing of Alexandria’s Saints Church on the 2011 New Year’s Eve, which killed 28 people and injured 300 others. Although the incident happened five years ago, no defendants have been referred to court in connection to it.
Another incident occurred in 2013 when unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at the Virgin Mary Church located in Cairo’s Al-Warraq district during the celebration of a Coptic Orthodox wedding. Four people were killed and 17 were injured in the attack.
Other terrorist attacks throughout the past three years targeted Coptic churches, all of which were highly condemned by multiple institutions and public figures. The judiciary has so far not reached a verdict or a definitive conclusion in any of these cases.