The Latest: US official condemns ‘barbaric attacks’ in Egypt

A man sits on a bench 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/Nariman El-Mofty)

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

9:45 p.m.

The U.S. State Department is condemning in the strongest terms what it calls the “barbaric attacks” on Christian places of worship in Egypt.

Bombs at two Coptic churches in northern Egypt killed more than 40 people and wounded about 100 others on Palm Sunday. The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for the explosions.

In a statement Sunday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the U.S. expresses its condolences to the families and friends of the victims and wishes a quick recovery to those injured.

Toner says the U.S. “will continue to support Egypt’s security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism.”

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9:20 p.m.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has called for a state of emergency for three months after two suicide bombings killed scores of Christians in two church attacks on Palm Sunday.

El-Sissi accused countries he didn’t name of fueling instability in Egypt, saying that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”

The army chief-turned-president hasn’t detailed 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.

Egypt declared a state of emergency in the months that followed the military ouster of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi when his supporters staged mass demonstrations that descended into violence.

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8:15 p.m.

Israeli security officials have asked Israeli tourists in the neighboring Sinai peninsula in Egypt to return home immediately.

Israel’s anti-terrorism office issued the recommendation on Sunday, citing what it said was a heightened alert level and twin church attacks that killed dozens of Christian worshippers.

The order recommends that all Israeli tourists in the Sinai return home immediately. It calls on families of travelers who stay in the Sinai to alert their loved ones of the risks. It also calls on Israelis planning trips to the Sinai to cancel.

The Sinai has traditionally been a popular destination for Israelis — especially during the upcoming Passover holiday. But Israel has urged its citizens to avoid the area in recent years because of Islamic militant activity.

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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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3 p.m.

The Islamic State group has claimed the bombing of two Egyptian churches in separate cities, which killed at least 37 people and wounded around 100.

The claim was published by the militant group’s Aamaq news agency. It provided no further details.

The extremists have claimed previous attacks against Egypt’s Coptic minority, and had recently vowed to step up attacks against Christians, who they view as an ally of the West in a war against Islam.

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2:40 p.m.

Germany has condemned the bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement Sunday that “the aim of the perpetrators, to drive a wedge between people of different faiths living peacefully side-by-side, mustn’t be allowed to happen.”

He spoke after a bomb went off at a church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens. Another bomb went off hours shortly thereafter at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria, killing at least 11 people and wounding 35.

No one immediately claimed either attack, but Islamic extremists have repeatedly targeted Egypt’s Christian minority in the past.

An Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula claimed an attack on a Cairo church in December that killed around 30 people, and vowed more attacks on Christians.

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2:35 p.m.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have condemned a church bombing in Egypt’s Nile Delta.

In a statement Sunday, the Islamic militant group described the attack as “a crime.”

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said “Hamas wishes safety, security, stability and prosperity for Egypt and its people.”

The explosion in the town of Tanta killed at least 26 people as Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday. Barhoum spoke before a second blast at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria killed 11 people and wounded dozens.

Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after ousting forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Its relationship with neighboring Egypt has declined after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Hamas has been attempting to improve ties with Cairo.

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2:30 p.m.

Israel has sent its condolences to Egypt following the deadly bombing at a church in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says Sunday that it wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded as well. It says “the world has to come together and fight terrorism everywhere.”

Israel has grown closer to the Egyptian leadership over shared interests in the region, including Iran’s growing influence.

The bomb ripped through a church in the town of Tanta that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers. Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population, and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

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2:20 p.m.

Egypt’s Health Ministry says an explosion at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria has killed 11 people, and wounded at least 35 others.

It appeared to be the second attack targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christians, after a bomb in a church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta killed 26 people and wounded more than 70.

The ministry said the explosion went off at Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria, where Pope Tawadros II had earlier celebrated Palm Sunday.

No one immediately claimed either attack, but Islamic extremists have repeatedly targeted Egypt’s Christian minority in the past.

An Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula claimed an attack on a Cairo church in December that killed around 30 people, and vowed more attacks on Christians.

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1:15 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande has expressed solidarity with Egypt following a deadly bombing at a church in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

In a written statement after Sunday’s attack, Hollande says “one more time, Egypt is hit by terrorists who want to destroy its unity and its diversity.”

He says France “mobilizes all its forces in association with the Egyptian authorities in the fight against terrorism,” and offers condolences to the families of the victims.

The bomb ripped through a church in the town of Tanta that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers. Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population, and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

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12:30 p.m.

Pope Francis has decried a deadly attack on a Coptic church in Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations, just weeks before his planned visit to Cairo.

The pontiff expressed his “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation,” and said he was praying for the dead and wounded in the attack. Word of the bombing came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

The pontiff asked God “to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons.”

The pope’s remarks on the church attack were handed to him on a piece of paper after he remembered the victims of the Stockholm attack Friday night. The bombing killed 25 people and wounded another 71, according to Egyptian officials.

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11 a.m.

An Egyptian official says a church bombing north of Cairo has killed 21 people and wounded another 38.

Magdi Awad, the head of the provincial ambulance service, confirmed the toll from the bombing of a church in Tanta that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers.

No one immediately claimed the attack.

Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population and have repeatedly been targeted by Islamic extremists.

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10:15 a.m.

Egypt state media says a bomb has gone off in a church in the Nile Delta, causing casualties.

The MENA news agency attributed the report to unnamed Interior Ministry officials, who provided no further details.

The explosion took place in the town of Tanta as Coptic Christians were marking Palm Sunday. Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population and have repeatedly been targeted by Islamic extremists.

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