Egypt extends state of emergency

Egyptian lawmakers on Tuesday extended for three months a state of emergency first declared following deadly April church bombings, state TV reported. Egypt had extended the state of emergency for a second time in October.

The latest extension is set to come into effect on Saturday, according to the official gazette. The emergency law expands police powers of arrest, surveillance and seizure, and can limit freedom of movement. Under Egypt’s constitution, the three-month state of emergency can only be renewed once, but the president can subsequently reinstate it.

Parliament approved the current state of emergency in April last year, after two suicide bombings at churches on Palm Sunday, claimed by the Islamic State group, killed at least 45 people in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

The local affiliate of IS, based in North Sinai, claimed the attacks and threatened further violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. Jihadists in May shot dead almost 30 Christians as they headed to a desert monastery south of Cairo. IS claimed responsibility for a gun attack last month on a church south of Cairo that left at least nine people dead.

The group also claimed a Cairo December 2016 attack in which a suicide bomber blew himself up in a church during Sunday prayers, killing 29 people. While the jihadists have also targeted other civilians, including more than 300 Muslim worshipers massacred at a mosque last November, they have focused on the ancient Coptic community.

Egypt had been ruled for decades under a state of emergency, which was cancelled a month before Islamist president Mohamed Morsi took power in 2012. Following Morsi’s 2013 military overthrow led by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a state of emergency was declared for a month. That came after clashes between police and Islamist protesters which killed hundreds, and also followed attacks on Christian properties by mobs of Morsi supporters.

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