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Egypt Church curtails Easter celebrations after bombings

ATTACKED. A general view shows people gathering outside the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, 120 km (75 miles) north of Cairo, after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. Khaled Desouki/AFP

CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt’s Coptic Church announced on Wednesday, April 12, that it would cut back Easter celebrations to a simple mass after twin bombings killed 45 worshippers last weekend.

"Given the current circumstances and our solidarity with the families of the dead, we are going to limit our celebrations to Easter mass," a statement said.

The traditional handing out of sweets to children by Coptic Pope Tawadros II before the start of Easter mass on Sunday, April 16, will also be cancelled.

"There will be no decorations in churches and the rooms normally reserved for the reception of worshippers wishing to exchange season’s greetings will remain closed," an official at the Coptic patriarchate told Agence France-Presse.

The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group said it was behind the bombings at churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and threatened further attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority.

The government ordered a 3-month state of emergency which was unanimously approved by parliament on Tuesday, April 11.

Sunday’s first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed 28 people.

The second struck outside Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria, killing 17 people after a suicide bomber was prevented from entering the building.

Pope Tawadros II had led a Palm Sunday service in the church shortly before.

On Wednesday, the interior ministry named the attacker behind the Alexandria bombing as Mahmud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah.

It said he was born in 1986 in the southern province of Qena and had lived in the province of Suez on the Red Sea.

Security forces were "pursuing efforts" to identify the attacker behind the Tanta bombing, it said.

The violence comes ahead of Catholic Pope Francis’s first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks. –