Families gather after Egypt church attack, state of emergency approved


ALEXANDRIA/TANTA: 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.
Hundreds of mourners, many outraged by what they said was the state’s failure to keep them safe on one of their holiest days, carried wooden coffins to the beat of drums interrupted by the wails of those dressed in all black.
“Where should we go pray? They are attacking us in our churches. They don’t want us to pray but we will pray,” said Samira Adly, 53, whose neighbours were killed in the attack.
“Everyone is falling short…the government, the people… nothing is good.”
The blast in Egypt’s second largest city, which killed 17 including 7 police officers, came hours after a bomb struck a Coptic church in Tanta, a nearby city in the Nile Delta, that took the lives of 28 and wounded nearly 80.
The twin attacks marked one of the bloodiest days in recent memory for Egypt’s Christian minority, the largest in the Middle East.
Both attacks were claimed by the IS, which has waged a campaign against Egypt’s Christian minority.
Coming on Palm Sunday, when Christians mark the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, the bombings appeared designed to spread fear among the Coptic minority.
“We shouldn’t stay quiet at all…it is a security failure..how did the bomb enter when there’s security outside the church? They’re saying now the metal detector wasn’t working,” Beshoy Asham, a cousin of a Tanta victim said.
The attacks also raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Roman Catholic Pope Francis planned for April 28-29 intended to promote interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
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.
But anger at the state’s failure to secure the religious holiday appeared to be on the rise.
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.
“Down with any president as long as Egyptian blood is cheap,” and “down with military rule!” they yelled.
In Tanta, where many families buried their dead on Sunday, members of the Coptic community expressed anger at the lack of security, saying that despite warnings of an attack, police had not stepped up efforts to protect them. A senior police official said a bomb was discovered and disabled near the Tanta church about a week ago. — Reuters