Palm Sunday terrorist attacks as it happened: Dozens dead, injured in Tanta and Alexandria

Ahram Online , Sunday 9 Apr 2017

As Egyptian Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, two deadly blasts at Tanta's Mar Girgis Cathedral and Alexandria's St Mark's Cathedral killed and injured dozens in the deadliest attack on Copts in years

Relatives of victims react in front of a Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. (Reuters)

Ahram Online provided live updates on the deadly attacks at the Mar Girgis Cathedralin Tanta and the St Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria which killed and injured dozens of Egyptian Copts on Sunday morning.



20:15 We will close our live updates here.

20:00 A funeral will be held for the victims of the Mar Girgis Cathedral bombing in Tanta at 10pm today, Ahram Online has learnt. 

19:15 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement: "Today’s senseless attacks targeted churchgoers attending Palm Sunday services, which mark the Sunday before Easter and the start of Holy Week for Christians. Let us remember that the palm branches used in services around the world today are a symbol of peace.

“Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt and the Egyptian people, and we offer our full assistance to the Government of Egypt in this difficult time.

“Far too often, religious groups around the world suffer persecution and discrimination at the hands of violent extremists. Canada strongly condemns these cowardly acts of terrorism. As an international community, we must stand united in our efforts to stop those responsible and to fight against hate by embracing the values of diversity, inclusion and peace.”

18:45 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has issued a decree ordering the armed forces to help the police in securing vital facilities all over the country. 

The Egyptian army releases a video of troops deployed countrywide to help secure vital facilities

18:00 President Donald Trump has said that the US “strongly condemns the terrorist attack” in Egypt, hours after the US embassy in Cairo released a statement denouncing the Tanta blast.

“I have great confidence that President Al-Sisi will handle situation properly,” Trump tweeted. 

El-Sisi met with Trump in the White House last week, in the Egyptian leader’s first formal visit to Washington. Trump has said his Egyptian counterpart is doing “a fantastic job.”

17:45 Egyptian state television has broadcast two pieces of footage that appear to show the suicide bomber outside the Alexandria cathedral.

The footage, from the church’s security cameras, shows a man with a blue sweater slung over his shoulders attempt to enter the cathedral, and being directed to pass through a metal detector first. 

The man enters the detector briefly, then takes a step back and the screen is filled with smoke. 

Footage of the attack on Alexandria's St Mark's Cathedral broadcast by Egyptian TV

17:30 Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted his condolences and said, "We strongly condemn the heinous terror attacks on churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday today."

Mehmet Gormez, the head of religious affairs in Turkey, "cursed" the attacks and said they are the shared problem of all humanity.

"The immunity of a place of worship, no matter the religion it belongs to, cannot be violated and the bloodthirsty killing of innocent worshippers cannot ever be forgiven," Gormez said in an official statement.

17:15 The Egyptian presidency has announced three days of national mourning in light of the attacks.

16:15 Death toll from attack on Mar Girgis Cathedral, Tanta, reaches 29, with 71 injured, according to a health ministry official in Gharbiya governorate.


15:20  Al-Ahram Arabic news website reports that Gharbiya governorate security chief Hossam El-Din Khalifa has been relieved of duty after the church attack in Tanta left dozens dead and injured on Sunday.


15:17 The health ministry updated the death toll in the attack on the Mar Girgis Cathedral in Tanta to 27. The number of injured stands at 78.


This puts the combined death toll from the Tanta and Alexandria attacks at 45.


15:00 Death toll in Alexandria cathedral bombing reaches 18, Health Minister Ahmed Emad tells ON TV news channel.

Egyptians look at victims after suicide bomber in front of a church in Alexandria, Egypt, April 9, 2017. Reuters


14:50 The IS group claimed responsibility, through their social media affiliate accounts, for Sunday's churches' explosions in Egypt, which left at least 36 dead and dozens injured in both Nile Delta's Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria. 


14:30 Egypt’s interior ministry has issued a statement about the Alexandria attack: they say a suicide bomber had planned to blow up himself using an explosive belt inside the church, but the security force assigned to protect the cathedral stopped him,.


The interior ministry also said that Pope Tawadros was inside the cathedral leading the prayers in the Palm Sunday service, but that he was not harmed in the attack.


A police officer and a policewoman, as well a low-ranking police officer, were killed while preventing the suicide bomber from entering the cathedral, the ministry said.


13:59 The casualties from the attack at Alexandria’s St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral have reached 11 dead and 66 wounded after the suicide bombing in the vicinity of the cathedral, according to a new update from the Health Ministry.


13:56 French President Francois Hollande has expressed solidarity with Egypt following the deadly bombing at the Mar Girgis Cathedral in Tanta that left 26 people killed and 72 others injured, AP reports.


In a written statement after Sunday's attack, Hollande said, "One more time, Egypt is hit by terrorists who want to destroy its unity and its diversity."


He said France "mobilizes all its forces in association with the Egyptian authorities in the fight against terrorism," and offers condolences to the families of the victims.


13:56 According to Al-Ahram Arabic, security forces have dismantled two explosive devices at Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque in Tanta city. The mosque, which includes a Sufi shrine, is considered the second most important mosque in city.


13:50 The US embassy in Egypt condemned “the heinous, reprehensible terrorist attack against peaceful worshippers at Mar Girgis Cthedral in Tanta on one of the holiest days of the Christian year.”


“The United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism,” the Embassy said in a statement on Sunday.


13:47 Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek has arrived at Tanta’s Mar Girgis Cathedral.


13:41 The Tanta Coptic Orthodox Bishopric has published the names of 22 victims of the Tanta church attack. So far, the names released by the Church are all those of men.


Among those killed in the Palm Sunday service attack in Tanta is Samuel George, the head of Shebin Al-Kom Court.


According to Al-Ahram Arabic’s correspondent in Tanta, Mohamed Mabrook, the explosion at the church targeted the front rows in the church hall.


13:30  The death toll from the deadly blast in the proximity of Saint Mark’s Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria has reached six, with 33 injured, the health ministry announced.


Al-Ahram Arabic website’s reporter in Alexandria said that three policemen are among the dead, including Emad El-Rakiby the head of the police department in Atarin district.


13:20 A suicide bomber is believed to be behind the Tanta church explosion, a security source in Tanta told MENA, adding that police are currently examining the remains of a suspect found at the scene.


13:05 At least two were killed, 21 injured in explosion at the Saint Mark's Church in Manshiya in Alexandria, state TV reported.


A suicide bomber has detonated explosives outside Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria’s Manshyia district, Angelious Izhaq, the secretary of Pope Tawadros told ONTV.


Izhaq confirmed that the Pope, who is in Alexandria for Palm Sunday service, was unharmed. 


13:00 A suicide bomber has detonated an explosion outside Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria’s Manshyia district, Pope Tawadros secretary Angelious Izhaq told ON TV.


12:54 Eyewitnesses in Alexandria told Ahram Online that an explosion has been heard near Saint Mark’s Church in Manshyia district near downtown Alexandria.


12:44 Lebanese Prime Minister Saad El-Hariri condemned the attack through his official Twitter account, expressing his condolences to Egypt and the victims of the attack, which he described as "an attack on the values of all religions".


Meanwhile, Jordanian government spokesperson Mohamed El-Momeny descried the "horrible terrorist attack", saying that it is intended to undermine stability and cause sectarian strife in Egypt. He stressed his country's support for Egypt in fighting terrorism.


The foreign ministries of Qatar and Bahrain have also issued statements condemning the attack, expressing their condolences for the victims, while rejecting violence and terrorism.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also issued a statement condemning the attack, according to Extra News channel, expressing to El-Sisi the solidarity of the Palestinians with the Egyptian people.


12:30 Catholic Pope Francis has decried Sunday’s deadly blast during Palm Sunday celebrations, just weeks before his planned visit to Cairo, AP reported.


"My deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation," the pontiff said, adding that he was praying for the dead and wounded. Word of the bombing came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square.


The pontiff asked God "to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons."


12:28 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has called for a National Defence Council meeting in response to the attack on Sunday, according to state TV. The National Defence Council is made up of the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the minister of defence and the commanders of the Egyptian armed forces, and is chaired by the president.


12:45 According to Al-Ahram Arabic correspondent Mohamed Mabrook in Tanta, there have been minor confrontations between security personnel and the families of victims seeking to enter the scene of the bombing to check on their relatives.


An informed security source said that security services believed a suicide bomber to be behind the attack, according to Mabrook. The security source added that “a severed head” believed to belong to the “suicide bomber” was being “inspected”.


12:35 The health ministry in Gharbiya says the death toll in the Tanta church attack has risen to 25, and puts the number of injured at 71.


11:55 Security forces have started to question eyewitnesses about the attack, while securing surveillance cameras in the area in order to view video footage, with a view to quickly identify the attackers, a security official told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.


11:40 Al-Azhar, the world's highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, strongly condemned the attack, calling it an “outrageous crime” against all Egyptians.


“This terrorist attack is devoid of all the principles of humanity and civilization,” the Islamic body said in a statement, adding that “the aim of this cowardly terrorist bombing is to destabilize the security and stability of our dear Egypt and the unity of the Egyptian people.”


Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb stressed Al-Azhar’s solidarity with the Egyptian Church in the face of terrorism and his great confidence in the ability of the security forces to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.


11:35 Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is heading to the scene of the attack.


“Egypt is determined to eliminate these terrorist groups,” cabinet spokesman Ashraf Sultan told state-owned TV channel Nile Live.

11:33 Political forces and activists have made calls for donations of blood to help the victims of the ‎attack. Health ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told state-run TV that donations of blood are ‎welcome, with one blood bank in Tanta and another in Cairo accepting donations.‎

The vicinity of the Alexandria blast at St Marks Chathedral following the explosion (Ahram Online)

‎11:21 The official Twitter account of Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman says: “Terrorism ‎hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday. Another obnoxious but failed attempt against all ‎Egyptians #united_on_PalmSunday” ‎

‎11:15 Khaled Megahed, the spokesperson for the ministry of health, told state TV the number of killed ‎stands at 21 and 69 injured. Hospitals continue to receive the injured.‎

A relative of one of the victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. (Reuters)

11:00 The General Prosecutor orders the formation of a prosecution team in Tanta to inspect Mar Girgis Cathedral and conduct initial investigations, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.‎

‎10:53 Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi orders the opening of military hospitals to treat those ‎injured in the Tanta attack, according to Sky News Arabia.

‎10:48 The Ministry of Health says the death toll in the Tanta church explosion has risen to 21. ‎

‎10:42 The explosion occurred in the main prayer hall of the church, with an ‎explosive device planted under a seat, a security official told Al-Ahram Arabic ‎website. Sixteen ambulances were sent to the scene of the explosion, with ‎‎40 injured people transferred to hospital.‎

‎10:35 A security source told Egyptian state TV an explosive device was planted inside the church.‎


An explosion ripped through the Mar Girgis Cathedral in the central Delta city of Tanta on Sunday morning as parishioners attended a Palm Sunday service, leaving dozens killed and many more injured.


Dozens were killed and injured in the blast, the Health Ministry said.


The explosive device was planted in the church before detonating, causing deaths and injuries, a security official told the state-run news agency MENA.


The explosion occurred as Christians across Egypt mark Palm Sunday at the start of Holy Week, which concludes with Easter Sunday on 16 April, during which Christians celebrate the Resurrection.


This is the second major deadly attack on a Coptic church in the past five months. On 11 December, 2016, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the St  Peter and St Paul Church in central Cairo during prayer services,  leaving 28 dead and more than 40 wounded. The Islamist State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

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