Church bombing leaves dozens dead, wounded in Egypt

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In this Dec. 11, 2016 file photo, a damaged bench inside the St. Mark Cathedral in central Cairo, following a bombing. When a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Cairo church, it marked a bloody escalation by Egypt’s jihadi militants, raising fears that an insurgency which for years has largely focused on fighting in the Sinai and killing policemen may now increasingly unleash attacks on civilians in the country’s capital. Such a shift in tactics would be a heavy blow to a country trying to rebuild a wrecked economy.AP/Nariman El-Mofty

A bomb exploded in a church north of Cairo that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers, killing at least 13 people and wounding 25 others, officials said.

The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. It comes just weeks before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed confirmed the toll from the attack in interviews with local and state-run media.

No one immediately claimed the attack.

In December, a local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo that killed around 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.

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.

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