Authorities in Egypt have beefed up security measures in and around the nation's churches in fear of fresh terrorist attacks in advance of Coptic Christmas on 7 January. The moves come following the bombing of a church in the coastal city of Alexandria on New Year’s Eve that killed 21 people and injured scores of others.
Security forces are currently prohibiting cars from parking near churches and searching all those wishing to enter them.
Security sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they had received instructions to arrest any "suspicious" individuals and to prohibit all gatherings outside churches following Sunday mass. Security directorates, sources added, are currently coordinating with church officials to appoint people familiar with local congregants so as to spot unknown individuals attempting to enter churches.
According to Interior Ministry sources, Interior Minister Habib al-Adly issued strict instructions on Sunday to intensify security measures in and around churches nationwide. These will include the appointment of undercover security personnel outside churches, the same sources said, as well as the provision of security personnel with the weapons needed to counter future attacks.
The beefed up security was particularly evident outside Abbasiya's landmark Cathedral of St. Mark and in the Zawya al-Hamraa, Ain Shams and Al-Marg districts of the capital. A heavy security presence was also evident in Giza, especially outside churches in the Omraniya district.
Security services also set up a 100-meter-long iron barricade around an Orthodox church in the city of Qena, deploying police patrols on the city’s main streets. The heavy security presence could also be seen around churches in Nagaa Hammadi, Al-Munasra and Al-Rahmaniya, as well as around the Monastery of Saint Bidaba.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.