Funerals held for victims of Egypt church bomb attacks

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency following Sunday's terror attacks on two separate churches.

The blasts came weeks before an expected visit by Pope Francis meant to show support for the country's Christians, who make up about 10% of Egypt's population and have long complained of being vulnerable and marginalised.

Such concerns had earlier seen the beleaguered community swing behind President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi's 2013 overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood with the promise he would protect them.

The first blast ripped through a Palm Sunday service at St. George's Church in Tanta, killing at least 27 and wounding 78 others, state TV reported.

Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Not long after that, at least 17 people were killed and 41 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack outside St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria.

Afghanistan on Tuesday strongly condemned the terrorist attacks that targeted two churches in cities of Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt, which killed and injured dozens of people.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar.

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Rev. Danial Maher, of the Tanta church, lost his 23-year-old son, Beshoy, who was among six deacons killed in the attack. The footage included statements claiming responsibility for a December attack on a Cairo cathedral that killed 29 people.

Youth gathered at the Alexandria funeral shouted chants rarely heard in a country where protesting has effectively been outlawed and rights activists say they face the worst crackdown in their history.

The Egyptian Cabinet, on its website Monday, said it had approved a three-month, nationwide state of emergency that went into effect at 1 p.m. Cairo time (7 a.m. ET).

"It's hard to process this idea, that if I had left 20 minutes later, I would have stopped to exist in this world", Sami, 26, told CNN. Women milled about in search of loves ones; some yelled at police for not protecting them, Butter said. Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt's 91 million residents, have been the target of increased persecution and discrimination since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's regime in 2011. Authorities, however, have not yet confirmed this information. Sisi has defended the performance of his security forces and accused militants of trying to divide Egyptian society by attacking vulnerable minorities.

The blasts have come ahead of the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt on April 28-29, and prompted worldwide condemnation.

"I know that even such despicable acts of terrorism against minority groups that seek to divide will not diminish the strong spirit of the Egyptian nation or prevent unity and harmonious coexistence between the different religious and ethnic groups in your country", Rivlin said.

"The United States will continue to support Egypt's security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism", said acting spokesperson Mark Toner.

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