Families of victims of Sunday’s bombing at Alexandria’s Coptic cathedral gathered at the Monastery of Saint Mina under heavy security on Monday as Egypt’s cabinet approved a three-month state of emergency ahead of a scheduled trip by Pope Francis.
Coffins of the 17 killed were lined up on the tiled square outside the monastery ahead of the funeral. Police checked cars as they entered the grounds, with hundreds of people gathered outside, and dozens of tanks lined parts of the road from Cairo.
The blast in Egypt’s second largest city came hours after a bomb struck a Coptic church in Tanta, a nearby city in the Nile Delta, killing 27 and wounding nearly 80.
Both attacks were claimed by ISIS, which has waged a campaign against Egypt’s Christian minority, the largest in the Middle East.
Coming on Palm Sunday, when Christians mark the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, the bombings appeared designed to spread fear among Copts, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
They also raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Roman Catholic Pope Francis planned for April 28-29.
Coptic Pope Tawadros, who was leading the mass in Alexandria’s Saint Mark’s Cathedral when the bomb exploded, was not harmed, the Interior Ministry said.
The nationwide state of emergency declared by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and agreed by the cabinet on Monday is expected to be approved by parliament within seven days in order to remain in place.
“The armed forces and police will do what is necessary to confront the threats of terrorism and its financing,” the cabinet said in a statement. Measures would be taken to “maintain security across the country, protect public and private property and the lives of citizens,” it said.