Egyptian Christians wept with rage on Monday as they recovered the bodies of loved ones killed in twin church bombings.

Forty-four people were killed in the attacks on Palm Sunday, a joyous festival a week before Easter when Christians celebrate the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem.

At Tanta University hospital morgue, desperate families were trying to get inside to search for loved ones. Security forces held them back to stop overcrowding, enraging the crowd.

Hours after the attack, Kerols Paheg and other young Coptic Christians were already digging graves in the basement of the devastated St. George Church in the northern Nile Delta city, where the first of the bombs exploded, killing 27 and wounding around 80.

He showed photos on his phone of the carnage: human remains, blood and shattered glass strewn across the floor of the church on one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.

“Today was supposed to be a day of festivity,” he said.

From now on, Christians will have to protect their churches themselves, rather than rely on the police, “because what’s happening is too much. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Copts make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 92 million people, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

Inspite of a presence dating back to the Roman era, the community feels increasingly ostracized and has repeatedly been targeted in attacks, including by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombings.

Hours after the blast in Tanta, the second bomb blew up at the entrance to Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, the historic seat of the Coptic pope, killing 17 people including three police officers and wounding 48.