(kmaxenews) : Egypt's president called for a three-month state of emergency Sunday after at least 43 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured in two Palm Sunday suicide attacks at Coptic Christian churches, each carried out by the ISIS terror group.
Sunday's first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.
Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.
A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria -- left at least 16 dead, and 41 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II -- leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria -- finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.
At least three police officers were killed in the St. Mark’s attack, the ministry told The Associated Press.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group's recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as "infidels" empowering the West against Muslims.
The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi accused unnamed countries of fueling instability in the country, adding "Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt." El-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of troops to assist police in protecting vital facilities across the country.
El-Sisi did not immediately detail the legal measures needed to declare the state of emergency but according to the Egyptian constitution, the parliament majority must vote in favor of the state of emergency.