Feature: Tight security marks Egypt's Coptic Christmas

08:05, January 07, 2011      

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Just a few hours before Coptic Christmas Eve, Egypt tightened security by setting up bars of steel on all sides of churches, increasing security officers, and using sniffer dogs and metal detectors in an attempt to avoid attacks similar to the church bombing that killed 21 people on Monday in Alexandria.

No driver is allowed to park near the churches and people have to go through security gates in order to enter their churches after local time 6 p.m. (GMT 1600) Thursday, security sources in Cairo told Xinhua.

In the wake of the midnight attack on Monday, which also wounded some 100 others, churches have more strict regulations. People have been asked by the churches to avoid standing in the corridors. Copts will be given instructions on how to leave churches after they perform their prayers.

Some Muslims in Egypt will be going to churches to show solidarity with Egypt's Coptic community which accounts for about 10 percent of the country's population.

"If many of us stand with our Christian friends, we all will feel safe and relieved," said Karim el-Damanhoury, who has invited all those he knows to support Christians.

Egyptian authorities have released a sketch by forensic experts that reconstructs the face of the bomber alleged to have blown himself up outside the Saints Church in Alexandria on the New Year 's Eve.

No one has claimed responsibility for this event. Al-Qaida's Iraqi affiliated branch threatened to attack Egyptian Copts in October, if two Christians it said that had been imprisoned in their monasteries for having converted to Islam were not released.

The Egyptian authorities said that the attack may be carried out by a suicide bomber with foreign background linking to al- Qaida. The latest bombing provoked strong protests all over Egypt. Many Egyptians said the government failed to address a number of issues which resulted in the blast.

"Whether it's al-Qaida or whoever else, we are all still in danger and the security should find out who did it as we are all facing danger," said Diana M. Ghali, a protester.

Many Egyptian Christians fear new attacks on Christmas Eve. Some are anxious about performing their prayers. However, many others insisted that it's important to show strength and unity.

"I am not afraid, there is no better way to die than dying while performing prayers," said Mark Magdy, a student in Cairo. Websites linked to al-Qaida has been reportedly circulating lists of Coptic Churches in Egypt and Europe along with instructions on how to prepare bombs to attack them.

Egyptian Copts have been circulating the lists of churches as a warning to their members.

The Coptic church received assurances from security operations in Alexandria that tight security measures will dominate Thursday' s Christmas mass, local media reported.

Source: Xinhua
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