State of emer­gency in Egypt af­ter at­tacks on Chris­tian churches.

45 peo­ple died in bomb­ings at churches

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAG­GIE MICHAEL

CAIRO | Egypt im­posed a three-month na­tion­wide state of emer­gency Mon­day as Pres­i­dent Ab­delFat­tah el-Sissi sought to ease pub­lic anger and take a tougher stand against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists af­ter sui­cide bomb­ings at two Cop­tic Chris­tian churches killed 45 peo­ple.

A day af­ter the Palm Sun­day blood­shed, the In­te­rior Min­istry said it killed seven Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in an ex­change of gun­fire dur­ing a se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion in the south­ern city of As­siut. The min­istry al­leged they were plot­ting at­tacks against Chris­tians. It posted photos of corpses ly­ing next to weapons and said IS pub­li­ca­tions were found with them.

A state of emer­gency al­ready in place in the Si­nai Penin­sula has failed to halt near daily at­tacks against po­lice and se­cu­rity forces by the Is­lamic State group in the volatile area.

Now the group is step­ping up its at­tacks against Chris­tians, who make up 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, by mov­ing its ac­tiv­i­ties from the Si­nai to other parts of Egypt. Its in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated tac­tics are likely to fuel sec­tar­ian ten­sions and em­bar­rass Mr. el-Sissi, who has cul­ti­vated a re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Trump and just re­turned from a warm White House visit.

The Palm Sun­day bomb­ings struck churches in the port city of Alexan­dria, the his­toric seat of Chris­ten­dom in Egypt, and the city of Tanta. The head of the Cop­tic church, Pope Tawadros II, had been inside St. Mark’s Cathe­dral in Alexan­dria when the bomber struck there but was un­hurt.

“We are see­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks, based on strong in­for­ma­tion, tar­get­ing big churches across the coun­try. This is a very dan­ger­ous de­vel­op­ment,” said Mina Tha­bet, a rights re­searcher fo­cus­ing on mi­nori­ties.

“Chris­tians are in a state of shock,” he added. “At­tacks are re­cur­rent, vic­tims are fall­ing in big­ger numbers, and peo­ple live in fear and th­ese groups are grow­ing in power, num­ber, and re­sources.”

There were scenes of grief and an­guish Mon­day as mourn­ers wailed dur­ing fu­ner­als at the sprawl­ing St. Mina monastery on the out­skirts of Alexan­dria. Some col­lapsed near the cas­kets, which bore the word “mar­tyr.”

Sim­i­lar scenes took place a day ear­lier at a church in Tanta, where vic­tims were laid to rest in a place of honor.

On Sun­day, the Rev. Daniel Maher buried his 23-year-old son, Beshoy. He re­called watch­ing him sing­ing at the ser­vice be­fore the at­tack at St. Ge­orge’s Church in Tanta. “He was like an an­gel,” he said.

The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks and iden­ti­fied the two at­tack­ers with names sug­gest­ing they were Egyp­tians. The group, which car­ried out a bomb­ing at a Cairo church in De­cem­ber that killed 30 peo­ple, threat­ened more such vi­o­lence, say­ing the blood of Chris­tians would flow “like rivers.”

Cop­tic Chris­tians have put their faith in Mr. el-Sissi, who cham­pi­oned him­self as the bul­wark against Is­lamists.

The for­mer army chief met with Mr. Trump a week ago at the White House, seek­ing closer ties and dis­cussing the fight against ex­trem­ism. Mr. Trump spoke by phone Sun­day with Mr. el-Sissi, to ex­press con­fi­dence that Egypt will do what it can “to pro­tect Chris­tians and all Egyp­tians.”

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