A day of prayer and remembrance turned into one of devastation for hundreds of Christians in Egypt when suicide bombers targeted two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday.

Some 44 lives were lost and dozens more people injured yesterday in twin explosions at Mar Guirgis (St George’s) Church in Tanta and Mar Morkoseya (St Mark’s) Church in Alexandria.

According to reports, the men wearing explosive vests belonged to a group of Islamic extremists targeting religious minorities in the country.

Susan Mikhail, whose apartment overlooks Mar Guirgis in Tanta, told AP that she felt the explosion from inside her home. She said that when she ran out onto her balcony to see where it came from, she saw deacons running out of the church with “blood on their white robes”.

In response to the tragic attacks and as part of his pledge to protect Egypt’s Christian minority, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has declared a three-month state of emergency.

Although subject to parliamentary approval, the move could see extra military troops deployed across the country and constitutional rights revoked over the 12-week period.

“A series of steps will be taken, most importantly, the announcement of a state of emergency for three months after legal and constitution steps are taken.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

The two attacks come less four weeks after tour operators said they’d seen confidence return among Australian holidaymakers keen to visit Egypt.

On the Go Tours’ Managing Director Carl Cross told KarryOn last month that demand was so strong for the destination in 2017, that the brand has had to add extra departures almost every week.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is now urging Aussies to ‘reconsider their need to travel’ to the Middle Eastern country due to safety concerns. The government agency is encouraging those booked to visit Egypt over the coming weeks to “maintain heightened vigilance at tourist locations, religious sites, crowded public places and around police checkpoints”.

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