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  • A relative of a victim reacts inside the Coptic church that was bombed in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017.

    A relative of a victim reacts inside the Coptic church that was bombed in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

The government deployed troops across the country, as Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said a three-month state of emergency would be imposed after two deadly bombings hit Coptic churches Sunday, killing at least 44 people.

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"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," Sisi said in a speech aired on state television.

The people were killed in bomb attacks on the symbolic cathedral seat of the Coptic Pope and another church on Palm Sunday, prompting troop deployments as well as anger and fear among christians across Egypt.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also injured more than 100 people and occurred a week before Coptic Easter, with Pope Francis scheduled to visit Egypt later this month.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city about 60 miles north of Cairo, tore through the inside of St. George Church during its Palm Sunday service, killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 78, the Ministry of Health said.

The second carried out a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit Saint Mark's Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17 people, including three police officers, and injuring 48, the ministry added.

Hundreds gathered outside the Tanta church shortly after the blast, some weeping and wearing black while inside, blown apart pews sat atop tiles soaked with blood. "There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered," a woman who was inside the church at the time of the attack said.

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"There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe," another woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.

The bombings are the latest in a series of attacks on Coptic Christians by extremist groups. The Coptics make up approximately 10 percent of Egypt's population.

The most recent attack, in December, claimed the lives of 25 people and injured 49 others. It was reported as the deadliest attack on the group in years.

These latest attacks on the religious minority come just weeks before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt.

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