More than 30 suspects have been arrested following two suicide attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, in which more than 45 people were killed.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks, one in Alexandria and the other in the Nile Delta city of Tanta. The Alexandria blast was at St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral and the Tanta explosion was at St George’s Church.
Egyptian reports say the intelligence forces are working on identifying the two suicide bombers.
On Sunday, the Tanta police also defused a bomb that had been placed by the police station in the city, which is next to a hospital.
Following the attacks, the Egyptian parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi's decision to declare a three-month state of emergency.
Ending emergency law had been a key demand during the 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, who had imposed a 30-year state of emergency to crush opposition. Its reinstatement will not affect day-to-day life, promised parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal, explaining it as a necessary measure at a time that requires exceptional laws.
Perhaps addressing concerns about abuse of freedoms, Abdelaal, added that Egypt had been in a state of emergency for 30 years, so the Egyptian people would have to be prepared to take steps to fight terrorism for three months.
Abdelaal also warned the press to be careful in its reporting, echoing comments by Sisi after the bombings: "It is up to all of us to protect this nation. This is a national and constitutional duty," he said.
Sissi also ordered the establishment of a supreme council to combat terrorism and religious radicalism, which will include representatives of all the ministries.
ISIS meanwhile threatened more attacks against Egypt's Christians, stating online, "Let the crusaders and apostates know that they will pay a huge bill with their son's blood."
Following the attacks, Egyptian army forces stepped up activity in the northern Sinai, where ISIS forces have been active, and reported exchanges of life fire with terrorists around el-Arish and in Rafah during the last two days.
Egyptian security forces claim that in seven armed terrorists en route to carry out another attack in a Coptic Christians area were killed in the el-Arish incident.
Egyptian security forces had taken much flak following the twin attacks on the Copts and now face two new challenges: Easter prayers and, towards month-end, the pope's visit. On Sunday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis' plans to visit Egypt remain unchanged: if anything his arrival is even more important, for the sake of his message of peace.
On Tuesday evening, prayers in solidarity with the Copts of Egypt, who are thought to constitute about 10% of the Egyptian population, were held at the Elias Catholic Church on Ein Dor Street in Haifa, Israel.
Meanwhile churches in the heavily Coptic city of Minya, for example, canceled Easter celebrations beyond liturgical prayers in mourning for the Palm Sunday deaths
With reporting by Reuters.
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