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Tears and anger as Egyptian Copts bury attack victims

Mourners sang, women sobbed and men cried out in anger in a packed Egyptian church at the funeral of some of the 28 Coptic Christians killed in Friday’s bus attack.

Eight wooden coffins were lined up in front of the altar, each bearing a golden cross and a white piece of paper printed with the name of the victim inside.

Relatives of the dead — men in long flowing robes and women dressed in black — pressed their faces to the coffins in a final farewell.

They had been among 28 people gunned down by masked gunmen as they travelled in a bus to the Saint Samuel monastery in Minya province south of the Egyptian capital.

Outside the church, a man brandishing a big wooden cross was carried on the shoulders of a friend.

“With our soul, with our blood we will sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the Cross,” people around him shouted.

Friday’s was the latest attack on Copts after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists bombed three churches in December and April, killing dozens of Christians.

Relatives of killed Coptic Christians carry a coffin as they gather outside the Abu Garnous Cathedral in the north Minya town of Maghagha, on May 26, 2017, during the funeral of the victims

It came after jihadists had threatened more strikes against the Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90-million population.

No claim of responsibility has yet been made.

For some among the Coptic community, authorities are not doing enough to protect them.

“I tell (Abdel Fattah al-)Sisi, you will have to account for your action in heaven,” said Reda Makary of the president and former army chief.

His nephew Nassef, a 28-year-old labourer, was killed in Friday’s attack.

“Of course there is no security. If there were, they wouldn’t have been killed,” said Makary, adding that his nephew had become a father for a third time just two months earlier.

Samuel Chalabi, 49, lost his older brother Ishak in the attack.

“As long as security forces don’t do their work properly, this will continue until all of us are eliminated,” he said.

“It is always the same — we will be a little bit sad, they will pity us, but it will start again,” he added, saying he feared further attacks on his minority community.

Mourners passed around cellphones to share video footage of bloodied bodies lying on the ground, some with their heads smashed.

“There is no security for Christians,” said Hakim Hana, a 25-year-old carpenter mourning his cousin.

The May 26 attack was the latest to target Copts after Islamic State group jihadists bombed three churches in December 2016 and April 2017, killing dozens of Christians

On April 11, bombers attacked two churches north of Cairo on Palm Sunday, killing 45 in the deadliest strike in living memory against the Copts.

The bombings prompted Sisi to declare a three-month state of emergency.

On Friday, state televisions aid Egypt’s air force launched six air strikes against “terror camps in Libya” in retaliation for the attack on Coptic pilgrims.

It came after Sisi vowed in a televised speech that “Egypt will not hesitate in striking terror camps anywhere, either inside (the country) or outside it”.

When the funeral service ended, the coffins were brought out of the small church of Deir El Jernous and carried in procession down a dusty street.

Women sobbed as the crowd tried to touch the coffins for one last time as church bells rang out into the night.

–AFP