Cairo, (IINA) - Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Sunday announced a three-month state of emergency following a pair of suicide bombings at Coptic Christian churches that were claimed by ISIS, DPA reported.
The blasts killed 46 and left dozens injured. ISIS later promised more attacks on Christians were to come.
Confrontation with terrorists will be long and painful, El-Sisi said in a televised address following a crisis meeting about the attacks. He said the state of emergency would go into force after related legal and constitutional measures are taken.
Under the constitution, the state of emergency must be approved by the parliament, which is currently led by El-Sisi's backers. There was no hint Sunday when parliament might take up the matter.
El-Sisi accused other countries of supporting terrorism in Egypt, but did not name them. The international community has to hold accountable countries that support terrorism, he added without elaborating.
El-Sisi said that a higher national council would be formed and given powers to tackle terrorism and extremism in the country.
The bombings targeted two Coptic Christian churches in two different cities.
The first bomb went off in the Mar Gerges Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, north of Cairo, leaving 29 dead and 71 injured, State television reported quoting a Health Ministry official as saying.
A second bomb went off outside St Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. Seventeen people, including four policemen, were killed and 48 injured in that blast, the Health Ministry said.
The four policemen died while attempting to prevent a suicide bomber from storming the church, the Interior Ministry said. The bomber blew himself up outside, killing the policemen and other civilians.
The government declared three days of national mourning.
The attacks took place while Egypt's Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, which marks the start of the Holy Week leading to Easter, which falls on April 16 this year.
Footage on state television showed a blood-stained floor and broken pews inside the Mar Gerges Church, the biggest in Tanta.
State-owned newspaper al-Ahram, citing witnesses, said that a person went to the pews at the front and detonated his explosive belt. The report was not officially confirmed.
State television aired footage recorded by a security camera outside St Mark's Cathedral showing the suicide bomber attempting to enter the church without passing through the metal detector.
The man, who had a blue sweater draped over his shoulders, was directed to pass through a metal detector first. Right after he enters the detector, an explosion takes place.
Following the bombings, El-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of armed forces units across Egypt to assist police forces in securing vital and important buildings across the nation."
The Defense Ministry released a video showing armored vehicles driving in the streets.
Pope Francis expressed his "profound condolences". He is scheduled to visit Cairo April 28-29, when he is due to meet El-Sisi, Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and Muslim cleric Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed el-Tayeb, who is the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
US President Donald Trump tweeted that he is "so sad to hear of the terrorist attack" and that he has "great confidence" that El-Sisi "will handle the situation properly."
El-Sisi recently finished a six-day visit to the US. He met Trump at the White House on April 3.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which consists of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, also condemned the attack.
Iran also decried the attack against "defenseless people in a holy place," according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi.
Sunday's blasts are the latest against churches in Egypt. In December, 28 people were killed in a suicide attack claimed by ISIS in a church adjoining Cairo's main cathedral.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 92 million people. Copts account for the majority of Egypt's Christians.
Source: International Islamic News Agency