Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency after attacks on two Coptic churches that left at least 44 dead on April 9.
The measure allows authorities to make arrests without warrants and search people’s homes, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said. It needs to be approved by parliament before it is implemented.
ISIS said it was behind the blasts in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm.
The group has targeted Copts in Egypt recently and warned of more attacks.
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said made a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defense council to discuss the attacks.
He said the state of emergency would be implemented after all “legal and constitution steps” were taken. The majority in parliament backs President Sisi.
Image source Getty
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said had earlier ordered the deployment of the military across Egypt to protect “vital and important infrastructure”.
The attacks coincided with one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
ISIS said in a statement that two suicide bombers carried out the blasts. One targeted St George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta, where 27 people were killed, the health ministry said.
Hours later, police stopped the bomber from entering the St Mark’s Coptic church in Alexandria. He detonated his explosives outside, leaving 17 dead, including several police officers.
The blasts came weeks before an expected visit by Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority, who have long complained of being vulnerable and marginalized.
The move by President Sisi is likely to raise concerns among human rights activists, observers say. The president, a former army chief, has been criticized by local and international groups for severe restrictions on civil and political rights in Egypt.
Human Rights Watch says tens of thousands people have been arrested in a crackdown on dissent, and that security forces have committed flagrant abuses, including torture, enforced disappearances and likely extrajudicial executions.
Jailed Al Jazeera journalists Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been freed after receiving pardons from Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were among 100 prisoners whose release was ordered.
Egypt’s state media said a third person from the case was also pardoned. It is not clear if this is the Australian Peter Greste, who was deported in February.
They were sentenced to three years in prison last month after a retrial.
Prosecutors accused them of collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi by the military in 2013.
The journalists denied the allegation and said they were simply reporting the news. Legal experts said the charges were unfounded and politically motivated.
A statement from President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi’s office issued on September 23 said Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were named on a decree pardoning 100 young people “who had received final court sentences, having been convicted on the grounds of violating the anti-protest law and assaulting police forces”.
“Other prisoners were pardoned due to their health conditions and on humanitarian grounds,” the statement added.
Also named were the prominent activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, who were jailed in 2014 for taking part in an “illegal protest”.
After the pardons were first reported, a tweet from Mohammed Fahmy’s account said: “Thank you to all the supporters sending us the news, we have heard and are very happy. AJ Staff is Free!”
Al Jazeera said in a report on its website that it “continues to demand all charges and sentences against its journalists are dropped”, noting that Peter Greste and six other employees had been convicted in absentia.
The pardons were issued by President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha and a day before he travels to New York to address the UN General Assembly.
The president had said he would be willing to pardon the Al Jazeera journalists once the judicial process had ended.
Mohammed Fahmy, who renounced his Egyptian citizenship to qualify for deportation in February, was expected to leave for Canada following his release.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has been declared the winner of last week’s presidential election in Egypt.
The former army chief said he wanted “freedom” and “social justice”, echoing the slogan of the 2011 revolution.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi spoke after election officials announced that he had received 96.9% of the vote and his sole challenger, left-winger Hamdeen Sabahi, only 3.1%.
The retired field marshal overthrew President Mohamed Morsi last July.
He has since been locked in a battle with Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which urged a boycott of what it called “the election of blood”.
Liberal and secular activists, including the April 6 youth movement which was prominent in the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, also shunned the poll in protest at the curtailing of civil rights.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has been declared the winner of last week’s presidential election in Egypt (photo Reuters)
Some journalists and government officials burst into applause and started dancing after the final results of the election were announced at a news conference in Cairo on Tuesday.
Thousands of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi supporters also celebrated in the capital’s famous Tahrir Square, cheering, singing songs and setting off fireworks.
In a speech broadcast later on state television, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi thanked voters and said he hoped to “be up to your trust”.
He said it was now “time to work”, adding: “Our co-operation in work and construction will lead to prosperity and luxury.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, a close ally, declared in a letter published by the Saudi state news agency that it was a “historic day” after a “period of chaos”. He also said he would organize a donor conference to help Egypt “get out of the tunnel” and “overcome its economic crisis”.
The Saudis, along with the UAE and Kuwait, have already promised the military-backed interim government almost $12 billion in financial assistance since Mohamed Morsi was ousted.
The official turnout was 47.45%, far lower than Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had hoped for as an endorsement and only achieved after an additional third day of voting.
Before the election, he declared that he wanted 40 million, or 74%, to cast their ballots to show that there was “consensus on a national level”.
He now faces a wide array of challenges, including fixing the economy, easing poverty and preventing further political crises.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has also promised to restore security in a country where attacks by Islamist militants have left hundreds of security personnel dead over the past 11 months.
Vladimir Putin has announced he backs Egypt’s military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in his “bid for the presidency”.
Vladimir Putin, meeting Field Marshal Sisi in Moscow to discuss an arms deal, said he was “aware” of his decision to run.
However, there has been no announcement on the matter from the Egyptian side.
General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last July, and the new constitution calls for an election by mid-April.
Correspondents say Field Marshal Sisi would be likely to win, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals.
Vladimir Putin said: “I know that you, mister defence minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt.
“I wish you luck both from myself personally and from the Russian people.”
Vladimir Putin has announced he backs Egypt’s military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in his bid for the presidency
Field Marshal Sisi is in Russia to negotiate a $2 billion arms deal, after the US suspended some of its annual military assistance in response to Mohamed Morsi’s removal.
Field Marshal Sisi said: “Our visit offers a new start to the development of military and technological co-operation between Egypt and Russia. We hope to speed up this co-operation.”
No details have been released about the military discussions, although Russian media pointed to Egyptian interest in acquiring air defence missiles, MiG-29 jets and helicopters, among other weapons.
Two weeks ago Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) gave its public support to any presidential bid by Field Marshal Sisi.
However, last week, the military issued a denial after a Kuwaiti newspaper quoted the field marshal as saying he would run for the presidency.
The military said at the time that any announcement would “be done via clear and direct statements that cannot be doubted or misinterpreted”.
The 59-year-old former military intelligence chief was appointed head of the armed forces and defence minister by Mohamed Morsi in August 2012.
But after mass protests demanding Mohamed Morsi’s resignation took place on the first anniversary of his taking office, it was the field marshal who gave the president an ultimatum that he would have to satisfy the public’s demands or see the army step in.
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