‘I Felt Fire Grabbing My Face’: Witnesses Recount Egypt Church Bombings [Watch]
Bruce Golding, New York Post
At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in Palm Sunday blasts at two Coptic churches in Egypt for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
The bombings targeted worshippers celebrating the start of Holy Week, the most sacred period in the Christian calendar, and came less than three weeks before a scheduled visit to Egypt by Pope Francis.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II narrowly avoided being caught in one attack while leading Mass at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, where a deadly explosion erupted at security checkpoint outside.
Surveillance video broadcast on Egyptian TV showed a suspect with a blue sweater draped over his shoulders being turned away from the main gate and sent toward a metal detector outside the church, which members of the country’s beleaguered Christian minority attend.
The man then passed by a female officer chatting with another woman before they were all engulfed in a fireball that killed at least 17 people, including four cops, and wounded at least 40.
The other blast, which occurred earlier, tore through the inside of St. George’s Church in Tanta, which sits east of the Nile River between Alexandria and the country’s capital, Cairo.
Video from a local news report shows deacons chanting and ringing a bell before a test pattern fills the screen, followed by audio of explosion and screams.
In grisly images of the aftermath, victims lie amid rubble and papers while blood stains the floor, shattered pews and marble columns of the historic church.
“I just felt fire grabbing my face,” a hospitalized victim told state TV. “I pushed my brother, who was sitting next to me, and then I heard people saying, ‘Explosion!’”
Another survivor told Reuters she saw “body parts scattered” after the blast, which killed at least 27 people and wounded at least 78.
Susan Mikhail, who lives directly across from the Tanta church, said the explosion shook her building.
“Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes,” she told The Associated Press.
Sunday’s attack followed the defusing of a bomb found outside the church on March 29.
ISIS released a statement claiming that two terrorists wearing suicide vests were responsible for the carnage.
“Crusaders and their apostate allies should know that the bill between us and them is very big and they will pay it with rivers of blood from their children, God willing,” the statement warned.