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Egypt declares emergency after bombs kill 44

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Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says a three-month state of emergency will be imposed after two deadly bombings hit Coptic churches, killing at least 44 people.

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“A series of steps will be taken, most importantly, the announcement of a state of emergency for three months after legal and constitution steps are taken,” Sisi said in a speech aired on state television on Sunday following the bombings, claimed by Islamic State.

The army chief-turned-president hasn’t detailed the legal measures needed to declare the state of emergency but according to the Egyptian constitution, the parliament majority must vote in favor of the state of emergency.

Both attacks happened on Palm Sunday a week before Coptic Easter, with Pope Francis scheduled to visit Egypt later this month.

Sisi has also ordered military troops be deployed across the country.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces has ordered units from the military to immediately deploy and assist the civilian police in securing vital facilities in all provinces of the republic,” his office said in a statement earlier on Sunday.

Two Islamic State militants wearing suicide vests carried out the deadly church bombings the group said, as it warned of future attacks in a statement.

The Alexandria bombing was carried out by an Islamic State militant the group identified as Abu Al-Baraa Al-Masri, while the Tanta church bombing was carried out by an individual it named as Abu Ishaaq Al-Masri.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city about 100 km north of Cairo, tore through the inside of St. George Church during its Palm Sunday service, killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 78, the Ministry of Health said.

The second, carried out a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17 people, including three police officers, and injuring 48, the ministry added.

Coptic Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but was not harmed, the Interior Ministry said.

Islamic State’s branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up attacks and threats against Christians, who comprise about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 90 million people and amount to the biggest Christian minority in the Middle East.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has joined international condemnation of the attacks.

“We condemn the barbaric attacks on Coptic congregations in Egypt this Palm Sunday. Our prayers are with the victims & their families,” he tweeted early on Monday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Islamic State was a barbaric organisation with no regard for religion and humanity.

She was aware they were targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt and elsewhere.

“We are concerned about Easter but also any other places of mass gatherings, even tourist sites are being subjected to attacks by ISIS and similar terrorist organisations,” Bishop told Network Seven on Monday.

– Reuters/AAP

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