President Michael D Higgins has commiserated with the leader of Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II over the recent killings of scores of his followers in bombings by Islamist extremists.

Three attacks on Coptic churches and cathedrals in recent months which claimed some 80 lives have been claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State group.

Copts constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East and North Africa. The area has seen an unprecedented exodus of Christians, particularly since the allied invasion of Iraq.

A spokesman for the President said that during the Pope Tawadros' courtesy call to Áras an Uactaráin earlier today, Mr Higgins also highlighted the need for an urgent resolution to the case of the Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has been imprisoned for almost four years after being detained during Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo.

Hearings in the case have been adjourned more than 20 times.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also expressed his concern at the killing of coptic christians in Egypt last month.

Pope Tawadros had just finished saying mass at one of the churches, which was attacked in the northern city of Alexandria.

Pope Tawadros is on a five-day visit to Ireland.