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Ahmed Abd Alkawey/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(CAIRO) — Egyptian Christians expressed anguish and despair following twin bombings that ripped through two of the country’s Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, killing at least 44 people and injured at least 126 others.

Chantal Labib, a 24-year-old school teacher, told ABC News that she saw news of the blasts on TV before she went to Palm Sunday services at another church in Heliopolis, Cairo.

“Coptic churches are very distinct,” Labib said of the often-ancient buildings that have long drawn many tourists in Egypt. From now on, she said, “the shape of the church and the pews [will] remind me of blood and dead bodies.”

The bombings in Tanta and Alexandria were claimed by ISIS and followed warnings by the extremist group that it would be stepping up attacks against Egypt’s Christians.

The first blast occurred in the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta, and the second several hours later in Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria.

The bombings followed a similar recent blast in Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December that killed at least 25 and wounded dozens more, many of them women and children.

ISIS claims responsibility for 2 bombings in Egypt that killed scores of churchgoers on Palm Sunday

All three of the explosions produced gory imagery that was circulated heavily on social media, with some showing mutilated bodies scattered among shards of shattered church pews.

Egypt’s Christian minority makes up roughly 10 percent of the country’s population, according to a recent estimate by the CIA.

Many of them are Coptic Christians, a centuries-old sect, while others are Catholic or Anglican.

Labib told ABC News that she is wrestling with whether to leave Egypt.

“I love my country and was always critical of those who wanted to leave,” she said. “My father has been wanting for us to leave for so long and we had the opportunity to move to the U.S., and I was the reason we didn’t go.”

“But now i think that we only live once. Why should I waste my life in a place where I can’t even pray?”

Nancy Emad 26, a case worker with an international nongovernmental organization who heard the news of the church bombings on her way to mass Sunday in Cairo, told ABC News that she wrestles with whether to leave, but for different reasons.

“With every attack I feel like I’m less of an Egyptian, but this is not what will make me leave the country,” Emad said. “I can leave for better economic opportunities, but not because my safety or my spirituality is not guaranteed because I will pray whenever I want and wherever I want. No one gets to decide [that] for me.”

Egypt’s Christians were largely supportive of the military overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi and were vocally critical of his Sunni Musilim organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, with some concerned that their minority community may not be protected under Morsi’s rule.

On Sunday, some mulled whether the current government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is able to protect Christians.

“I dont know if the state could have stopped this,” Peter Salib, 23, a student, told ABC News. “Terrorism is unpredictable. For example, the suicide bombing in Alexandria happened on the street before he entered, how could they stop such things?”

In the U.S., President Trump took to Twitter to condemn the attacks and voice confidence in el-Sisi, who has been criticized by human rights groups for curtailing civil and political liberties since he took power in 2014.

“So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns,” Trump tweeted. “I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly.”

The blasts came at the start of the Christian Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo also condemned both attacks in separate statements.

“The U.S. Embassy condemns the heinous, reprehensible terrorist attack against peaceful worshippers at Saint George’s Church in Tanta on one of the holiest days of the Christian year,” the Embassy wrote of the Tanta attack. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrific attack. We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery. The United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism.”

“The United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism,” both statements said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) — Egypt is declaring a state of emergency following twin bomb blasts in churches that were packed for Palm Sunday services.

The state of emergency will last for three months, according to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The attacks, which were claimed by ISIS, follow warnings by the terrorist group that it would escalate attacks on Egypt’s Christians, who the CIA estimates make up roughly 10 percent of the country’s population.

The two bombings Sunday killed at least 44 people and injured at least 126 others, according to Egyptian officials. The first exploded in a Coptic Christian church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, and the second several hours later at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt.

ISIS claimed that the blasts were the work of suicide bombers who detonated explosive vests at the churches.

President el-Sisi said in an address to his people that security forces would step up their efforts to hunt down those responsible for planning the attacks, and that the media should exercise caution in how they cover the ensuing investigation.

Graphic images including some shared on social media by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt show the horrific aftermath of the twin blasts: Pews are shattered across large swaths of the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and at least 78 others were wounded. The church floors appear streaked with blood and littered with shredded prayer books.

In Alexandria, where at least 17 people were killed and 48 others wounded, rescue workers at the chaotic scene after the bombing used blankets to carry victims through the debris and to waiting orange emergency vehicles.

The bombings came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world’s most populous country.

The U.S. embassy in Cairo condemned the attacks in separate statements.

“The U.S. embassy condemns the heinous, reprehensible terrorist attack against peaceful worshippers at Saint George’s Church in Tanta on one of the holiest days of the Christian year,” the embassy wrote of the first attack. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrific attack. We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery. The United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism.”

The statement about the Alexandria bombing was similar, and both statements pledged solidarity with Egypt against terrorism.

“The United States stands firmly with the Egyptian government and people to defeat terrorism,” both statements said.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church in Tanta, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Regional Deputy Health Minister Mohammed Sharshar confirmed the toll from that bombing.

Across the street, neighbor Susan Mikhail, whose apartment has a clear balcony view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building around midmorning, at a time when the church was packed.

Pope Francis decried the bombings, expressing “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.”

Word of the bombings came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar — the leading center of learning in Sunni Islam — likewise condemned the violence, calling the events a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”

Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement ruling neighboring Gaza also denounced the bombings.

The explosions add to fears that extremists who have long been battling Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula are shifting their focus to attacking civilians.

An ISIS affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a Cairo church in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women. The group also claimed a string of killings in the restive northern Sinai that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.

ISIS recently released a video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, whom it describes as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.

Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.

The Sinai-based ISIS affiliate has mainly attacked police and soldiers, but has also claimed bombings that killed civilians, including the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board and devastated Egypt’s tourism industry.

Egypt’s Copts are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. They have long complained of discrimination and that the government does not do enough to protect them.

Egyptian media had previously reported that the church in Tanta had been targeted in the past, with a bomb defused there in late March.

The Copts were largely supportive of the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and incurred the wrath of many Islamists, who attacked churches and other Christian institutions after his ouster.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Russia is absolutely “complicit” in the chemical attack in Syria that killed at least 86 civilians, including many children.

“Absolutely they’re complicit,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “Russian intelligence may not be as good as ours, but it’s good enough to know the Syrians had chemical weapons, were using chemical weapons.”

Schiff added that Russia is “better positioned to know, in the sense that they have people on the ground in close proximity working in close concert with the regime. I think absolutely they know what the Syrians are doing.”

Russia is a key military ally of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its fight against rebel factions in the country’s civil war.

The U.S. blames Syria’s government for the deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held province last week. The Assad government has denied responsibility, and Russia has said that the release of toxic agents happened when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical-weapons arsenal and munitions factory.

The question of Russian complicity in the attack also came up in an earlier interview on “This Week” Sunday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson said he has “not seen any hard evidence” that Russians were involved in planning or carrying out the attack.

But the secretary of state said when he meets with the Russian foreign minister this week, he will bring up Russia’s obligation under a 2013 agreement to ensure the Syrian government got rid of its chemical weapons.

“It agreed to be the guarantor of the elimination of the chemical weapons, and why Russia has not been able to achieve that is unclear to me,” Tillerson said. “Clearly they’ve been incompetent and perhaps they’ve just simply been out-maneuvered by the Syrians.”

Within less than three days after the chemical attack in Syria, President Trump ordered a U.S. missile strike on the Syrian air base where the aircraft which carried the chemical weapons are believed to have flown from.

Rep. Schiff told Stephanopoulos, “I think there’s a strong moral case … to make for what the president did” in response to the chemical attack.

“But I don’t think, George, it should have been done without congressional approval,” the lawmaker added.

“Do you think Congress could even come close to agreeing on a use of force resolution at this point?” Stephanopoulos asked, referring to the sharp partisan divide.

“You know, I do,” the Democratic lawmaker replied. “It’s certainly not easy … [But] I think we can come to agreement on a resolution that says the president will have the authority to go after al-Qaeda and ISIS and the Taliban.”

Such a resolution “forces accountability,” Schiff said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — ISIS is claiming responsibility for two attacks on churches in Egypt that were packed for Palm Sunday services.

The two bombings in packed churches on Palm Sunday killed at least 37 people and injured around 100.

The first bomb went off at a Coptic Christian church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, killing at least 26 people and wounding over 70.

Another bomb exploded hours after at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria.

ISIS claimed the attacks via its news agency, after having recently warned that it would step up attacks on Egypt’s Christians.

The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world’s most populous country.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church in Tanta, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Regional Deputy Health Minister Mohammed Sharshar confirmed the toll.

Pope Francis decried the bombings, expressing “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.” Word of the attacks came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

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@vanfullapuppies/Twitter(ATLANTA) — Delta Air Lines is still struggling to recover after severe weather caused the airline to cancel thousands of flights, leaving passengers– including many spring break and holiday travelers– stranded.

The airline is attributing the major disruptions to major storms that moved through Georgia on Wednesday, hitting Delta’s busiest hub in Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

On Saturday morning, Delta said about 275 flights had been canceled and that additional cancellations were possible.

“We are grateful for your patience and want you to know that we, as always, learn from these experiences,” Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West said to customers in a statement on Thursday. “While we can’t control the weather, we understand the resulting recovery has not been ideal and we apologize for that.”

Many passengers took their frustrations with Delta to social media and #DeltaMeltdown went viral.

Josh Preston, a Delta customer, said he was issued two more tickets after a flight cancellation, and “boarded three separate aircraft…all of which either were ground-stopped or never left the gate.”

Other customers online joked that renting a car would be faster than traveling with the airline. Passenger Mallory Bergeson said she decided to rent a car after she was rescheduled on different flights for five days in a row.

Delta said a travel waiver was extended through the weekend and the airline advised passengers to check Delta.com for updates on flights.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

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US Navy(WASHINGTON) — The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group is heading back to the waters east of the Korean peninsula after completing a port visit to Singapore. The carrier and three other ships will head there as tensions remain high about North Korean missile tests and a possible underground nuclear test.

“Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April 8,” said a U.S. Navy press release.

The release said the strike group “will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia.”

According to a U.S. official the Vinson, two destroyers and a cruiser received orders this week to head to the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean peninsula.

The strike group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) the guided missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57).

The strike group arrived in Singapore on April 4 after completing a two-week stay in the waters off the Korean peninsula, where it participated in the annual “Foal Eagle” military exercise conducted by South Korea and the United States.

Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula as North Korea has conducted four missile launches this year and U.S. officials have said it appears another North Korean underground nuclear test could occur at any time.

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ABC News(KHAN SHEIKHUN, Syria) — When Abdel Hameed al-Youssef regained consciousness after a chemical weapons attack on his hometown in northern Syria, the husband and father awoke to a nightmare.

His 9-month-old twins, his wife Tallulah, and more than 20 other family members were dead.

“When I came to, I asked for them,” Youssef, a farmer, told ABC News on Saturday. “All dead.”

The morning of April 4 began like any other for residents of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib province. Youssef and his wife woke up to an airstrike that hit just 20 meters from their home, and the children were frightened.

“We’re bombed constantly,” Youssef said.

With the twins, Ahmad and Aya, clinging to his neck, Youssef and his wife stepped outside their home to assess the situation. Rubble surrounded the house, he said.

They continued walking through the neighborhood when two more airstrikes hit nearby. But there were no sounds of explosions, Youssef said.

Then, they smelled a strange odor and people around them began to collapse.

“At this moment, I felt something was wrong. So I handed over Ahmad and Aya to my wife and I told her to get away from here,” Youssef said. “I told her to get to safety.”

Tallulah took the twins and four of their neighbors’ children to find a safe place, while Youssef rescued several neighbors who had collapsed and were foaming at the mouth.

“I covered my mouth with my hand as much as possible,” he said.

Youssef ran to his parents’ home in the town, which was about 100 meters away from the poisonous airstrike. There, he found some of his brothers, their wives, their children and a cousin –- all nonresponsive and foaming at the mouth.

Youssef hurried to another family member’s home nearby, where he found one of his nieces also dead. As he tried to pick up her small body, his eyes went hazy and he had trouble breathing.

“I was conscious for only a few seconds and then I fainted,” Youssef said.

It wasn’t until Youssef awoke that he learned the fate of his wife and children.

First responders told Youssef that they found his wife with the twins and the neighbors’ kids in a shelter near his house. Tallulah was still holding the children close but she was so ill from the toxic gas that she was unable to walk.

The twins, Ahmad and Aya, were still foaming at the mouth when Youssef saw their bodies. He wiped the foam from their mouths and took them in his arms.

“I told them, ‘Hello darlings. I took too long. I rescued everyone else but I couldn’t rescue you,'” Youssef told ABC News, in between tears. “I was expecting them to hug me back.”

Harrowing images of this anguished father cradling the lifeless bodies of his twins captured the international community’s attention and galvanized the United States to retaliate.

At least 87 civilians, including 31 children and 20 women, were killed in the April 4 chemical attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, making it the worst chemical attack in the war-torn country since 2013.

After conducting autopsies on victims who were brought to Turkish hospitals for treatment, Turkey’s health ministry confirmed that the patients had been exposed to sarin gas, a banned nerve agent.

A U.S. official also said the symptoms exhibited by the victims pointed to sarin gas.

The U.S. official told ABC News that a Syrian military fixed-wing aircraft dropped the chemical weapons on what was an underground hospital in the town run by an al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front.

In response, the United States, which blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the deadly attack, launched airstrikes against the Syrian government two days later.

U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired a barrage of Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base in Homs province, where an aircraft carrying the chemical weapons in the April 4 attack is believed to have taken off.

President Trump said Thursday the airstrikes were in the “vital national security interest” of the United States.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Friday warned that the United States is “prepared to do more” in Syria.

“The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary,” Haley said during a special open session of the U.N. Security Council devoted to discussing Syria.

In the interview with ABC News on Saturday, Youssef questioned why the Trump administration hasn’t taken any further action against the Assad regime. While he was grateful for the airstrikes Thursday, the grieving husband and father wishes for more.

“Firstly, I’d like to thank President Trump and the U.S. administration on the initial steps they took against the airport that killed my children and all the martyrs. But I didn’t expect the strikes to stop,” Youssef said. “I was surprised. Why did President Trump stop the strikes? Why one airport, one base?”

The Assad regime has firmly denied carrying out the deadly chemical attack and has lambasted the United States for the bombing of its airfield, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said killed eight people and wounded others.

Russia, a stalwart ally of the Assad regime, has said that toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a warehouse where opposition militants were storing chemical weapons — a statement that contradicts testimony from residents, doctors and activists on the ground.

“The Russians have no credibility and in terms of the claim that there was chemical weapons [in the town],” Youssef told ABC News. “The warehouses we had were grain silos and they were bombed three years ago, totally destroyed.”

The airstrikes in the town on April 4 didn’t hit any warehouse.

“They hit civilian homes,” Youssef said.

According to Youssef, opposition militants are positioned on the outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun. But they remain outside in order to protect civilians from getting caught in the crossfires of the civil war.

What started as a local protest movement in Syria’s southern city of Dara’a expanded into a full-fledged civil war by 2012. ISIS, which grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, took root in northern and eastern Syria in 2013 after seizing swaths of territory in neighboring Iraq. The jihadist group is fighting to overthrow Assad’s regime and establish a caliphate.

The Syrian civil war has pulled in the United States, Russia, Iran, and almost all of Syria’s neighbors. It has become the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations.

The chemical attack on April 4 is the latest atrocity in Syria’s six-year conflict.

After the attack, Youssef traveled across the border to Turkey and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“He promised us that there would be conversations on a security level and with President Trump to take steps against Assad to stop the killing and violence in Syria,” Youssef told ABC News in Antakya.

Youssef said he plans to return to his country soon, despite the dangers and the tragedy in his hometown.

In the interview with ABC News on Saturday, Youseff recalled walking through the streets of his town carrying his dead children in his arms. The twins and Youseff’s wife were buried near his home.

“I was wishing not to reach the burial site, to spend more time with them, as much as possible,” he said. “I wished to be buried with them, not bid them goodbye.”

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. position on Syria hasn’t changed after American warships launched a military strike on an air base in Syria Thursday in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that killed at least 70 civilians earlier in the week.

“We are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment and we’re asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons. Other than that, there is no change to our military posture,” Tillerson told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview that will air Sunday on “This Week.”

In remarks from his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, President Donald Trump explained his decision to launch a military strike against a Syrian air base Thursday night, expressing disgust at the “very barbaric attack” by Syria.

“Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many — even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Tillerson echoed the president’s comments, telling Stephanopoulos, “I think the president was very clear in his message to the American people, that this strike was related solely to the most recent, horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children, and as the president said, even small babies. So the strike was a message to Bashar al-Assad that your multiple violations of your agreements at the UN, your agreements under the chemical weapons charter back in 2013 that those would not go without a response in the future.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An American soldier was killed in action in Afghanistan Saturday, Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, spokesperson for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The soldier was conducting operations against ISIS in Nangarhar Province when he was fatally wounded, Salvin confirmed.

The service member’s name and rank have not yet been released.

The news comes just days after President Trump hosted a White House event honoring wounded warriors.

“You’ve earned our freedom with your sweat, blood and your incredible sacrifice,” Trump said Tuesday. “We salute you, we salute your service.”

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