This is no way to start off a major religious holiday. Terrorists have struck at multiple locations in Egypt, killing dozens and injuring scores more as Christians gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday. NBC News broke the story of the first one early this morning, located in the town of Tanta, north of Cairo in the Nile Delta.
A bomb exploded in a church packed with Palm Sunday worshipers north of the Egyptian capital, killing at least 26 people and wounding 71 others, according to Health Ministry officials.
The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.
No one immediately claimed the attack, which came a week before Easter.
This video from The Mirror in the U.K. captures some of the mayhem immediately following the blast.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a second explosion tore through the streets outside of a Coptic church in Alexandria.
An explosion near a church in the coastal Egyptian city of Alexandria was reported on Sunday afternoon hours after a blast at a Coptic church in the nearby town of Tanta killed at least 25 people on Palm Sunday, according to local reports.
It was not immediately clear if there were casualties at the scene of the second reported explosion.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has called a meeting of his national security council to begin investigating but it would be shocking if this didn’t turn out to be the work of the local ISIS affiliate. This set of despicable attacks carry all the signatures of Islamic terrorism. Multiple attacks in different locations (no doubt designed to inspire fear across the region that more may be coming) and planning it for Palm Sunday, targeting Christians. Even if they don’t take credit for it in short order, this is almost undoubtedly the work of Daesh-Sinai (previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), a group which has already sworn their allegiance to ISIS.
UPDATE: Shortly before post time, ISIS took credit for the attack, coming as a surprise to pretty much nobody.
#BREAKING Islamic State group claims Egypt church bombings: Amaq
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 9, 2017
The British have had a travel warning in place for anyone considering going to Egypt for some time now for precisely that reason. Unfortunately, Egypt has been plagued by too many of these attacks over the years, sometimes going after government facilities or tourist locations, but frequently targeting Christians living in the country. In December 2016, a church near the Orthodox Cathedral in Abbaseya, Cairo, was hit with 25 people being killed. In the same month they detonated a bomb on Pyramid Road in Giza and a half dozen police officers were killed.
This is all a grim reminder of the task that the west has in front of them. Even if we finish flushing ISIS out of Iraq and eventually Syria, the end of their caliphate is not going to represent the end of their movement. Much like al Qaeda after their base of operations in Afghanistan was largely disrupted, ISIS already has affiliates in a variety of areas. They may not be amassing armies to go on the march and overrun entire cities, but they have money, access to destructive technology and fanatics willing to die for the cause.
There may still be hope that the major powers will eventually put aside their differences (at least temporarily) and figure out what to do about this. Keep in mind that ISIS took credit for an attack in Russia recently, specifically in St. Petersburg. They’ve also been causing enough trouble in some regions of China that the Chinese government is cracking down on Muslims in general. It’s a terrible way to manage foreign policy, but if enough countries can eventually agree on ISIS as the common enemy we might do a bit better on cooperation in other areas.