Heightened security at churches ahead of Coptic Christmas

Ahram Online, Monday 6 Jan 2014

Plans in place to protect churches over Coptic Christmas amid fears of terrorist attacks by Islamist militants

Riot police stand guard near the Orthodox church
Riot police stand guard near the Orthodox church where Saturday's bomb attack took place in Alexandria January 3, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Security officials in Cairo and Giza are working on a plan to protect churches ahead of Coptic Christmas on 7 January, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported on Monday.

Gamal Abdel-Aal of Cairo investigative police and Mohamed Farouq of Giza investigative police met with security heads to plan security arrangements for Christmas eve.

Fears of potential attacks have been heightened since militant attacks increased after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Initially centred in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, the attacks have recently extended to other parts of the country.

On 24 December a bomb rocked the security directorate building in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people and injuring more than 135.

Numerous churches were attacked following the dispersal of pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo and Giza on 14 August, which left hundreds dead and thousands injured.

In a report released last October, the London-based rights group Amnesty International said upwards of 200 Christian-owned properties had been attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged across the country, and at least four people killed since mid-August.

Churches in Egypt are often guarded by a single officer, with more at larger churches or those located in relatively wealthier areas.

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