Egypt's decades-long state of emergency has come to an end after its last renewal expired.

The ruling military has vowed to continue to ''protect'' the nation.

The law gave security forces sweeping powers of search and arrest and was a fixture of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's rule that ended last year in a popular uprising.

The army generals now in power have long promised to do away with the law, but instead made wide use of it when cracking down on protests against their rule and bouts of sectarian violence.

Thousands of civilians have been tried by military courts behind closed doors using the emergency powers.

Acknowledging the expiry of the law in a televised address, the ruling military council said it would "continue to carry its national responsibility in protecting the country until the transfer of power is over".

Last week millions of Egyptians went to the polls in free elections for the first time in their history.

The election was a momentous sequel to the popular revolt that toppled Mr Mubarak 15 months ago.