Egypt beefs up security outside churches ahead of Easter

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Egypt beefs up security outside churches ahead of Easter

Cairo, Apr 12 (AP) Outside of Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, a dozen high-ranking police officers are stationed on all entrances, searching cars and scanning the area, as security measures are visibly beefed up outside churches before Easter prayers on Sunday.

The usually festive occasion is tainted with fearful apprehension after twin bombings in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria killed 45 Coptic Christians this week on Palm Sunday, which marks the start of the Coptic Holy Week.

The increased security measures on display outside churches across the country are meant to restore a sense of security for Egypt’s Copts amid a war on the embattled minority declared by the Islamist State group, which claimed Sunday’s bombings.

However, the enhanced security can do little against the effect of repeated attacks on Coptic churches in recent years.

“No security measure can stop a suicide bomber with jihadist beliefs from blowing up a church,” Coptic engineer Emad Thomas told The Associated Press today.

However, he believes that Copts will still attend prayers on Sunday as they have continued to go to church despite earlier attacks. “Egypt’s Copts put their trust in God and not in security measures,” he said.

Outside of St Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cairo’s central downtown area, a military tank is stationed with five soldiers on top one of the more overt manifestations of President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi’s declaration of a three-month state of emergency.

In the southern city of Assiut, security barriers closed off an area of about 100-meters around large churches. A local security source told the AP that agents will be dispersed ahead of Sunday’s prayers and a special unit will be formed at the security directorate to receive reports about suspicious individuals in the vicinity of churches.

A military source said that troops have started patrolling the city and will be stationed across town before Sunday. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

In the neighboring city of Minya, home to the highest Coptic Christian population in the country, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations,” in mourning for Sunday’s victims.

Peter Naggar, a Coptic lawyer, saw the enhanced security around churches as an effort to appease Copts, many of whom blame the state for failing to protect them. In the Tanta attack, the bomber was able to enter the church and reach the front rows before blowing himself up. (AP) KJ

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.