CAIRO --  Bombs tore through two Egyptian churches in different cities as worshippers were marking Palm Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding around 100 in an assault claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In the first attack, a bomb exploded at Saint George church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, killing at least 26 people and wounding over 70, officials said. 

Later, an explosion hit Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt, killing at least 11 people and wounding 35 just after Pope Tawadros II finished services. His aides later told local media that he had escaped unharmed.

ISIS claimed the attacks via its Amaq news agency, after having recently warned that it would step up attacks on Egypt’s Christians.

The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world’s most populous country.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church in Tanta, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Across the street, neighbor Susan Mikhail, whose apartment has a clear balcony view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building midmorning, at a time when the church was packed.

“Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes,” she told The Associated Press. Later, the more seriously wounded started to come out, carried in the arms of survivors and ferried to hospitals in private cars, she said.

After that attack, Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the state will resume efforts to eradicate terror, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.

“Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday,” Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted. “Another obnoxious but failed attempt against all Egyptians.”

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