Two blasts targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday have killed at least 45 people, officials say.
In Alexandria, an explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church killed 16 people. Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside and was unhurt, state media reported.
An earlier blast at St George’s Coptic church in Tanta killed 29 people.
So-called Islamic State (IS) says it is behind the explosions. The group has recently targeted Copts in Egypt.
Following the attacks, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi ordered military deployments to protect “vital an important infrastructure” across the country, the government said in a statement.
Four police officers, including one policewoman, were among those killed in Alexandria, the interior ministry said. The suicide bomber blew himself up after they stopped him from entering the church.
The first explosion in Tanta, 94km (58 miles) north of Cairo, took place near the altar.
“I saw pieces of body parts and broken seats. There was so much blood everywhere, some people had half of their bodies missing. The first three rows [inside the church] were destroyed,” Nabil Nader, an eyewitness, said.
Security forces later dismantled two explosive devices at the Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque, also in Tanta, the state-run Al-Ahram news wedsite reports.
The explosions injured at least 71 people in Tanta and 35 others in Alexandria, the health ministry said.
The Egyptian government announced three days of mourning.
The blasts appear to have been timed for maximum impact, as people gathered to mark Palm Sunday. It is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
Egyptian security forces had been put on alert in anticipation of attacks.
The explosions come weeks before an expected visit by Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority. He condemned the explosions.
“I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the victims] and to the entire community,” the Pope said.
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