At least 49 people were confirmed dead in today’s (April 9, 2017) attacks on two Coptic churches in Egypt, prompting the Egyptian President to declare a three-month nationwide state of emergency. The attacks, which took place in Alexandria and Tanta, were claimed by ISIS and coincided with Palm Sunday, and following the visit of President Sisi to the United States. The attacks were a continuation of a deliberate targeting of the Copts, including members of that community in the restive Sinai Peninsula, most of whom are poor and unprotected farmers.

The death toll is likely to rise as scores of worshipers sustained injuries. The targeted churches were Tanta’s St George’s Church, located less than two hours north of Cairo, and where 25 people were reported dead. Another group of 11 people was also killed outside Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria. Sources say Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic church was inside Saint Mark’s during the attack but he was not hurt. Shortly after the attack, the government reported that the police thwarted a suicide attack on Saint Mark’s, when they intercepted a man carrying an explosive belt.

The targeting of the Copts has escalated with the rise of President Sisi, and expanded significantly over the past two months.