Two explosions at Coptic churches in Egypt on Sunday have left at leat 36 people dead. At least 25 people were killed in an explosion at Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta, an Egyptian city located 130 kilometres from the capital, Cairo. Hours later, an explosion at St Mark Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria claimed at least 11 lives and injured several others, while Coptic Pope Tawadros II was inside it. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said the injured are to be treated at military hospitals, local news channels reported. Tanta’s Principal Governor Ahmad Deif told the Al Arabiya news channel that either a bomb went of or a suicide attackers was involved. Security forces later searched the church for other explosive devices, but found none.

Officials said the blast at the Alexandria church took place when police stopped a suicide bomber at the entrance.

The blast at both churches took place while it was full of people observing Palm Sunday, an especially holy day for the community. Palm Sunday is a feast that takes place seven days before Easter and marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Coptic Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s population, and have often faced attacks by armed groups, in particular the Islamic State outfit, in the past. In December, at least 25 people were killed and another 35 wounded after a bomb exploded in Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo. The blast had taken place near the outer wall of St Mark’s Cathedral, which is the seat of the country’s Orthodox Christian Church and its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II. The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for it.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Egypt later this year.