Tight security dominates Egypt’s Coptic Christmas mass

The Coptic Church has received assurances from the security apparatuses in Alexandria that tight security measures will dominate Thursday’s Christmas mass, two influential members in the Alexandria Millet Council told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"[security] told us that they will do their best to make sure that Copts will have an untroubled mass," said Kameel Sedeek, member of the Alexandria church Millet Council of Alexandria.

Asked about his satisfaction with the security measures one hour before mass, Sedeek said, "As far as I can see security prevented cars from parking in Kenesat El Akbat St." where the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria resides.

In the street, there were no signs of tight security measures and only few plain cloth security personnel were sitting inside the Patriarchate.

A note hung in the metal door of the Patriarchate indicating that no cars were permitted to enter the patriarchate on Thursday.

"This sign is being put for the first time," said Sedeek.

Five days after the deadly bomb, Alexandria’s streets returned to their daily routine.

Shops, school students and pedestrians were seen in the two main streets of Eissawy and Gamal Abdel Nasser that surround St. Mark and St. Peter Church in Sidi Beshr district. 

Security forces in Alexandria reduced its presence around St. Mark and St. Peter Church; however, it maintained tight control over the streets that link with the church.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, worshipers were allowed to enter to the church upon showing identification.

A security source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that after the statement made by the church calling for its followers to show self-restraint, there was no need to impose tighter security measures.

"The reason for the heavy security presence was to be ready for any demonstrations and possible acts of vandalism,” the source said.

Apart from the demos organized by Coptic protestors, Alexandria did not witness any big demonstrations organized by politically affiliated groups.

On Tuesday, a number of oppositions groups tried to stage a demo in Alexandria condemning the New Year’s Eve attack. The police, however, prevented them from demonstrating for more than half an hour.

"The presence of security returned to its normal levels given Coptic celebrations," said Nader Murkos, Pope Shenouda III counselor and member of the Alexandria Millet Council.

However, cars are not are allowed to enter the street of the church unless the car belongs to a resident of the area or the clergymen in the church.

 "The security presence is light in contrast to what was happening in the Saturday and Sunday where we weren't in Egypt; we were in Iraq actually," argued Sedeek in reference to the heavy security forces in the area surrounding the Church of St. Mark and St. Peter.

In street 45, where a big Christian community lives, three big cars full of sliders and three others for the Central Security Forces (CSF) stood in front of Church of saints Mary Girgis and Anba Botros.

The security trucks were in the area since Sunday.

The Colonel who is assigned to head the security of the church said the cars would remain till further notice.

Many of the non-Orthodox churches in Alexandria have a normal security presence.

A small Anglican church is Sidi Beshr district has only two sliders to guard the church.

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