Death toll continues to climb in twin Egypt Palm Sunday attacks

Relatives and onlookers gather outside a church after a bomb attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, Egypt, Sunday, April 9, 2017. The attack took place on Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week leading up to Easter, when the church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was packed with worshippers. (AP Photo/Ahmed Hatem)

CAIRO (AP) – The Latest on the bombing of two churches in Egypt (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is joining in the international condemnation of the church bombings in Egypt, and he says he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” against the U.S. ally.

Trump says in a tweet Sunday that he has “great confidence” that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, “will handle the situation properly.”

The Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and in Alexandria took place less than a week after Trump welcomed the Egyptian leader to the White House.

The two had reaffirmed their commitment to working together to fight radical groups such as the Islamic State group.

The attacks killed more than 40 people and injured dozens.
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5:20 p.m.

Egyptian television channels are broadcasting CCTV footage they say is of a suicide bomber responsible for one of Sunday’s church bombings.

The two clips show a man wearing a blue sweater draped over his shoulders approach the main gate to St. Mark’s cathedral in Alexandria, before being turned away and directed toward a nearby metal detector.

The man then passes a female police officer chatting to another woman and enters the metal detector before an explosion engulfs the area.

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4:30 p.m.

Turkey has condemned Sunday’s attacks on churches in Egypt.

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.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also published a statement denouncing the attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, which killed at least 26 people.

“We convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the whole people of Egypt,” the statement said before a second attack hit an Alexandria church, killing at least 11 people.
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3:15 p.m.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry says a blast at a church in Alexandria was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm the entrance before being stopped by police.

The ministry said three policemen were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, without providing an overall toll. The Health Ministry said 11 people were killed and another 35 were wounded.

It was the second of two attacks on Coptic churches that were packed with worshippers celebrating Palm Sunday. The first, in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, killed 26 people and wounded around 70.

The Islamic State group claimed both attacks.
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8 a.m.- Dozens are reportedly dead after twin blasts went off in Egypt.

According to the Associated Press, at least 25 people were killed by an explosion at a Coptic Christian church in Tanta, Egypt. The blast came as Christians inside were celebrating Palm Sunday. A reported 60 others were wounded in the blast.

In the city of Alexandria, the Associated Press reports, a second blast occurred outside a church where the Coptic pope had earlier celebrated Palm Sunday. Egypt’s Health Ministry reports so far six people have died.

No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and marks the start of Holy Week for Christians.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

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