JERUSALEM, Israel – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-day mourning period after terrorists carried out one of the worst attacks in recent history against a Christian Coptic church in Cairo. The death toll rose to 25, with nearly 50 wounded.
Eyewitnesses said a woman planted a bag filled with more than 15 pounds of explosives inside the church. The explosion ripped through St. Peter's, located next to Cairo's main Coptic Cathedral.
One man recalled, "The columns were smoldering, people strewn on the floor and the walls. Everything was broken."
Most of the dead were women and children.
"They were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes," one eyewitness said.
An Islamic grouped called Hasm took responsibility for the bombing.
After the attack, a spontaneous demonstration gathered. The protestors cried out against terrorism and demanded national unity.
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population. The bombing demonstrates the danger they face.
In 2013, for example, CBN News reported that the Muslim Brotherhood burned down a number of churches, Christian businesses and even an orphanage.
President el-Sisi said a religious war is being waged in Egypt, and he vowed to hunt down the attackers.
The Coptic Pope Tawadros is returning from a state visit to Greece to preside over the funerals of more than two dozen Christians.
"This calamity is not against the church but against the homeland, against all of Egypt," Pope Tawadros said.
"We are in a lot (of) pain because of this evil.. but we are pleased they passed away during prayers," he added. "This is the best time to die... during this holy month."