Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock was part of a congressional delegation visiting Egypt for discussions on counterrorism when bomb blasts rattled the nation Sunday, killing at least 43 people and injuring dozens more in attacks that targeted the country’s Coptic Christian minority.
Comstock (R) joined Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) in condemning the bombings, which occurred as the delegation was in the Sinai Peninsula celebrating Palm Sunday Mass with American troops, according to a Comstock spokesman.
The attacks, less than three hours apart, hit two churches filled with worshipers in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. Tanta is 80 miles north of the capital, Cairo, where the delegation met with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on Saturday. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility in both attacks.
“We are sickened and horrified at the attacks that occurred this morning in Egypt, targeting innocent worshipers as they gathered to celebrate one of the holiest days of the Christian faith,” the joint statement read. “Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with all those affected by this despicable act of terrorism. The United States must continue working with our allies and partners in the international community to bring a swift end to ISIS and these continuing acts of violence across the world.”
The statement called Egypt one of America’s “most crucial partners” in the fight against the terror group.
The Saturday meeting with Sissi was the first leg of a trip aimed at deepening Middle East ties in the effort to combat terrorism, the statement said. President Trump hosted Sissi at The White House last week and pledged close cooperation on the countries’ national security interests. Sissi’s visit marked a change in U.S. policy, coming after President Obama had refused to invite the Egyptian president to the White House, citing concerns over human rights violations.
The joint statement linked to a story in the Egyptian english-language publication Daily News Egypt, where a photo showed the delegation seated around Sissi.
“We will continue working together to address these threats and defeat terrorism once and for all,” the statement said.
The spokesman for Comstock, who represents Northern Virginia, declined to further specify the delegation’s whereabouts, citing security concerns.
Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.