TWENTY-FIVE people were killed and 49 wounded in a bombing at a chapel next to Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral during Sunday mass. It was the second deadly attack to hit Cairo in two days. Most of the victims were thought to be women and children.

The Mena state news agency said a bomb was thrown into a chapel close to the outer wall of St Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian church and home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, who is currently visiting Greece.

However, eye-witnesses thought the explosion might have been caused by an explosive device planted inside the chapel.

The blast took place as a Sunday mass being held in the chapel was about to end.

It coincided with a national holiday in Egypt marking the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

State television aired calls for blood donations by several Cairo hospitals treating the wounded. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-day state of mourning.

A statement quoted him as saying: “The pain felt by Egyptians now will not go to waste, but will result in an uncompromising decisiveness to hunt down and bring to trial whoever helped through inciting, facilitating, participating or executing this heinous crime,”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday’s attack, which bore the hallmarks of Islamic militants fighting Sisi’s government.

As defence minister, he led the 2013 ousting of Mohamed Morsi, an elected Islamist president connected to the the Muslim Brotherhood.

An angry crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the cathedral, chanting anti-government slogans and calling for the sacking of the interior minister, who is in charge of security.

Scuffles broke out with the police when the protesters tried to push through their barricades, but there were no immediate reports of arrests. Police in full riot gear later arrived at the scene.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks by Islamic militants since the military overthrow of former president Morsi, a freely-elected leader, in July 2013.

Many of Morsi’s supporters blamed Christians for supporting the overthrow, and scores of churches and other Christian-owned properties in southern Egypt were ransacked that year.

On Friday, six policemen were killed in a bomb attack in Cairo claimed by a group suspected by authorities of having links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.