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Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017 bombings of Coptic churches

‘Egypt has become… an oasis of security and stability in the region,’ says President el-Sissi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi arrives to speak at the United Nations  General Assembly on September 24, 2019 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi arrives to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2019 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Monday announced the lifting of the state of emergency in place since deadly jihadist attacks on Coptic Christian churches more than four years ago.

The North African country has been under a state of emergency since April 2017 bombings of two Coptic churches by an Islamic State group affiliate that killed more than 40 people.

Coptic Christians account for around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

“Egypt has become, thanks to its great people and its loyal men, an oasis of security and stability in the region,” Sissi said on Facebook. “This is why I decided to cancel the renewal of the state of emergency throughout the country,” he added.

Under a state of emergency, police powers such as arresting and holding citizens are extended and constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly are curtailed.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency. The attacks have been largely concentrated in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but occasionally struck elsewhere in the country.

Illustrative: Egyptian soldiers guard the entrance to the Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport as they gesture to a photographer in south Sinai, Egypt, November 2015. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell, File)

Since February 2018, the authorities have been conducting a nationwide operation against Islamist militants, mainly focused on North Sinai and the country’s Western Desert, towards the border with Libya.

Rights groups say the state of emergency coupled with the government’s effective protest ban since 2013 has helped it in crushing dissent.

In August, Israel’s National Security Council scaled back its travel warning for parts of the Sinai Peninsula for the first time in years.

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