[JURIST] Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi [BBC profile] announced a national state of emergency following two terror attacks on Coptic Christian churches on Sunday. The attacks killed at least 44 people [NPR report] and injured 100 others after suicide bombers in two different cities tried to enter the churches while services were underway. The Islamic State [BBC backgrounder] claimed responsibility for both attacks. In a televised address, President el-Sisi announced [BBC report] his intention to declare a state of emergency for the next three months during which more soldiers will be deployed to protect public buildings, police will be ale to arrest civilians without laying charges, authorities will be able to search homes without warrants, large gatherings will be banned, and there will be tighter censorship. The new measures must be approved by the Egyptian parliament before being implemented.
The threat to Christians in the Middle East has heightened in past years as radical extremists have increasingly targeted attacks on this religious group. In February 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned [JURIST report] the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya by IS, characterizing the acts as “vile crime[s] targeting people on the basis of their religion.” The Egyptian Christians were abducted in two separate incidents, and a released video showed members of IS beheading the captives on a beach in Libya. Earlier that month, Egypt’s state-run National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) [official website] publicly condemned recent violent attacks against the nation’s Coptic Christians. Islamist extremists are believed to be behind attacks [CNN report] such as the burning of churches and property owned by Christians, along with the displacement of Christian citizens. Coptic Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people and more than 275 people were killed and 2,000 injured in the course of the attacks. These citizens have become a scapegoat for the ousting of Egyptian ex-president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile], and recent attacks are widely seen as retaliation from Morsi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC profile].