UPDATE: 7:34 a.m. EDT – The death toll from a bombing in a church north of Cairo early Sunday targeting the country’s Coptic Christians rose to at least 26.
Pope Francis expressed his “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation” and other worshippers who were attacked on Palm Sunday.
At least 21 people were killed and over 50 injured early Sunday after an explosion rocked a church in Egypt’s Tanta, north of Cairo, media reports said. The blast occurred on Coptic Christian Palm Sunday, a Christian feast commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
The church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was packed with worshippers during the bombing. The death toll was confirmed by ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed in an interview with CBC TV.
Footage from inside the church surfaced on social media, and several local news outlets released photos from the bombing site showing people gathered around bodies of several victims.
There is no official word so far on what exactly caused the explosion.
Palm Day, which falls on the Sunday before Easter, is marked by Christians by paying respects to Jesus on the sacrifices he made. Just days after Palm Day, Jesus was put on trial and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Egypt’s Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants in recent years.
In December last year, 25 people were killed in a bomb explosion at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo during a church service.
In February, Islamic State group militants threatened more attacks against Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.