Egypt's Coptics observe Christmas Eve under tightened security

08:04, January 07, 2011      

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Egypt's Coptic Christians gathered on Thursday night in churches to observe Christmas Eve amid highly tightened security after the latest attack against a church in Egypt's coastal city Alexandria.

Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt's Coptic Church, led the mass ritual at the Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District in Cairo. A number of Egyptian satellite channels had a live broadcast of the mass service late Thursday night.

A number of high-profile political figures and many Muslims also attended the service at the church to show solidarity with Coptics.

Magdy Nasief, a Coptic dentist who attended the ritual with his wife and his eight-year-old daughter Merai at the Saint Mark Church, said they did not feel dangers. "I want to make my family have the same feelings like every year and I am quite sure that nothing wrong will happen," he told Xinhua.

Egypt has been on high alert as Coptics observe their Christmas which falls on Friday. Security measures included setting steel hurdles around churches and employing sniffer dogs and metal detectors to prevent new bloody attacks.

Cars were not allowed to park near the churches. Worshippers needed to pass strict checkup procedures before entering churches. Due to the strict security measures, Nasief said they had to park their car far from the church and take metro to reach the church.

Thanks to all these security efforts, a possible attack plot was foiled in a church in Minya governorate. A tin box contained nails, nuts and a firecracker was found by a church worker at the bottom of a stairway inside and then handled by security personnel, official MENA news agency reported on Thursday.

Egyptian officials have called for unity between the country's Muslim majority and the Coptics who accounts for about ten percent of the country's total population. The purpose of the recent attack, believed by some analysts, was to fuel tensions between the two communities.

The Saints Church in Alexandria where a bombing on Jan. 1 killed 21 worshippers, also became crowded Thursday evening despite rainy weather. Some Muslims carried slogans like " solidarity between the cross and the crescent."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has urged Egyptian Muslims and Christians to unite in face of terrorism and those who target Egypt's security and stability.

"Though terrorists want to let us think that the attack was religiously-motivated, but it is impossible for me or for any other Muslim in this country to believe that this crime was perpetrated by a Muslim, Egypt's People's Assembly Speaker Ahmed Fathi Sorour was quoted by MENA as saying during a visit to a church on Thursday.

Egypt's security authorities had drawn the picture of the terrorist suspect who conducted the church attack. The terrorist was said to be in 20s and carrying an highly explosive TNT charge weighing about 25 kg.

Source: Xinhua
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