Egypt's interim president has extended a nationwide state of emergency by two months, citing security conditions.

The nearly month-old state of emergency, which gives security forces greater powers of arrest, had been due to expire within days of the announcement made on Thursday.

It was first declared in mid-August after authorities cleared two protest encampments held by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, prompting violence that claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 in subsequent days.

Ever since, a night-time curfew has also been in effect in much of the country.

The government will decide separately on whether to continue the curfew.

The extension had been widely expected, and the decree cited continued security concerns.

Scattered protests by Morsi supporters continue nearly daily, and the government says it faces an organised violent campaign to destabilise the country.

Ongoing crackdown

Authorities have been carrying out a crackdown on supporters of Morsi, including leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of inciting violence.

Security officials say at least 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamists have been arrested in the past month, all of them facing prosecution.

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At the same time, violent attacks on police stations, government offices and churches have grown more brazen in south Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and closer to the capital, Cairo.

A day earlier, a pair of suicide bombers drove their explosives-laden cars into military targets in Sinai, killing nine soldiers.

Last week, a suicide car bombing in Cairo targeted the convoy of Mohammed Ibrahim, the interior minister who is in charge of the police.

Ibrahim escaped unharmed but a civilian was killed, in the first such political assassination attempt since Morsi's July 3 overthrow.

'Exceptional' measure

In an interview with the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm on Wednesday, Hazem el-Beblawi, interim prime minister, said the government was recommending the state of emergency be extended for a month or two because of "an increasingly tense situation".

He called it an "exceptional" measure that should be used minimally.

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According to the interim constitution, the state of emergency can only be imposed for three months, then it must be put to a public referendum.

For most of the 30-year rule of Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, the state of emergency was imposed as the government said it was battling terrorism.

Shortly after Mubarak's removal it was lifted.

El-Beblawi said the curfew would likely be eased, particularly before schools returning, in the third week of September.

The curfew has already been eased before, reducing it from a 11 hours down to seven hours, in 11 governorates.

On Fridays, a day when protests usually draw larger numbers, the curfew continues to be for 11 hours.

Government officials and the media have expressed concern that the return of schools and universities, where the Muslim Brotherhood traditionally has a strong base, may be an occasion for protests and unrest to spread.

Source: Agencies