Egypt on edge as Christians bury dead from church attacks

Bombings at two Egyptian churches killed more than 36 people as they gathered to mark Palm Sunday, officials said, in one of the deadliest recent attacks on the country's Coptic Christians.

The jihadists have attacked Egyptian Coptic Christians before, but their campaign against the minority picked up in December with a Cairo church bombing that killed 29 people.

The Cabinet's approval came after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in a brief television appearance Sunday announced the state of emergency for three months. At least 27 people reportedly died in a church bombing located in the northern city of Tanta while 18 civilians and four police officers were killed outside a Coptic church in Alexandria from a suicide bombing attack.

At least 49 people were killed in bombings at two churches in Tanta and Alexandria, the latest sectarian attacks one of the country's most imperiled religious minorities.

Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, mourned the "yet another targeted attack" upon Egypt's Christians "during what was meant to be a joyous day of families celebrating Palm Sunday".

Palm Sunday is among the holiest days on the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and churches traditionally draw big crowds.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the church bombings in Egyptian cities Alexandria and Tanta. The bomb was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall, according to Egyptian state media.

Women wailed as caskets marked with the word "martyr" were brought into the Mar Amina church in the coastal city of Alexandria, the footage broadcast on several Egyptian channels.

ISIS, which claimed responsibility, warned of more attacks in a statement. 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. Christians joined hands in a circle around praying Muslims to protect them from regime forces and loyalists trying to break up the protest. Maher said he didn't recall any unusual movements, but other worshippers told him that they saw a man rushing inside the church before the explosion. "I didn't realize what's happening", he told CNN.

A US State Department report on the human rights situation in Egypt said security forces had used "killings and torture".

Thabet says despite the condemnation that greeted that attack, Sunday's bombings show terrorists are still able to operate in the same way; he says they are "still strong and becoming more experienced in conducting these attacks". Russia's President Vladimir Putin condemned the attacks and offered his condolences to Sisi, according to Russia's state-run Tass.

Egypt's Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants.

In a mass at the Vatican Sunday, Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Egypt later this month, expressed "deep condolences" to "all of the dear Egyptian nation".