CAIRO - A bomb exploded in a church north of Cairo that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers, killing at least 26 people and wounding 71 others, officials said.

The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up around 10% of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. It comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

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

No one immediately claimed the attack, which comes a week before Easter.

Meanwhile, a second blast at a church in Alexandria killed 11 and wounded 35, Egypt's Health Ministry said. The blast occurred at the main Coptic Christian cathedral in Alexandria, the BBC, Egypt state media and other media reported, following a service that included the pope of the Coptic church.

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

A local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country. The group has threatened further attacks.