Cairo, April 10 (IANS) A day after two church bombings claimed by the Islamic State killed at least 49 people, Egypt’s cabinet on Monday approved a countrywide state of emergency for three months.
The state of emergency took effect from 1 p.m. (local time), the cabinet said in a statement.
“The state of emergency allows both the armed forces and the police to execute those procedures necessary to combat the threats of terrorism and its financing, maintain security around the country and protect public and private property, as well as preserving the lives of citizens,” the statement read.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared the measure in a televised address on Sunday following the attacks, reported Al Ahram online.
“This is only to protect our country and prevent any targeting of its capabilities,” Sisi said.
“The war against the jihadists would be ‘long and painful’… What is happening now is another attempt to destroy our country,” he added.
The President also ordered the deployment of army forces to secure state institutions all over the country.
The presidency said that troops from the armed forces will assist police units in the mission of maintaining the safety of buildings and government institutions.
The first explosion, which left 27 people dead and 78 injured, ripped through a Palm Sunday service at Mar Girgis (St. George’s) Coptic church in Tanta, a city located 120 km from Cairo.
A few hours later, a second attack outside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria killed 18 civilians and four police officers, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside the cathedral.
The combined attacks represented one of the deadliest attacks on Coptic Christians in years. Egypt’s Copts are one of the most ancient Christian communities and the largest in the Middle East, said the report.
The attacks on Palm Sunday prompted condemnation and solidarity internationally.
Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Egypt at the end of April, sent his “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and the entire dear Egyptian nation,” adding that he was praying for the dead and wounded.
French President Francois Hollande expressed solidarity with Egyptian authorities “in this terrible ordeal” and vowed to “mobilise all forces” to back Egypt’s fight against terrorism, according to a statement released by his office, the Elysee.
China also strongly condemned the terrorist attacks.
“China supports Egypt’s effort in maintaining national security and stability and is willing to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation with the international community,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.