Dozens of Palm Sunday worshippers were killed and nearly 100 hurt in Egypt when ISIS set off explosions in a pair of churches.
At least 36 people were killed when a bomb detonated at a holy house in the Nile Delta town of Tanta and another 11 were slain by a suicide bomber at a church in Alexandria according to local officials.
Hero cops likely saved lives in the second attack by stopping the suicide bomber at the door, forcing him to detonate his charge before going inside, according to reports.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, was attending the Alexandria mass, but wasn’t hurt in the blast. The attacks come just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the country.
The first explosion hit congregants in the pews of the Tanta church, where footage from the aftermath shows survivors gathered around what appear to be lifeless, bloody bodies inside, and witnesses described the scene with horror.
“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe. I saw the intestines of those injured and legs severed entirely from their bodies,” Vivian Fareeg told Reuters.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar — the leading center of learning in Sunni Islam — condemned the earlier attack, calling it a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”
Jihadists have repeatedly targeted the country’s Christian minority, which makes up 10 percent of the population.
A local Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country. The group has threatened further attacks.
A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for an April 1 bomb attack targeting a police training center in Tanta, which wounded 16 people. The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.
Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.