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Egyptian Christians too scared to celebrate Easter – fear of attack sees celebrations CANCELLED


CHRISTIANS have cancelled Easter celebrations fearing Islamic State (ISIS) will launch a terror attack.

Elaborate traditional celebrations for the holy weekend in Egypt have been stripped back over security fears, after at least 45 people were killed in Palm Sunday attacks on a Catheral in Alexandria and a church in Tanta on April 9. Join today

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came months after the terrorists vowed to eradicate Christianity from Egypt.

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Only low-key church services are expected to go ahead, under armed guard.

One Egyptian Christian says the community is scared ISIS will carry out another attack on Saturday night as the main Easter services start.

The Christian, who refused to disclose his name for fear of reprisals, said “Christians in Egypt are concerned about their safety during this holy week.

“Safety is not guaranteed in spite of all the extra security measurements, people are worried someone could sneak into a church and leave a bomb. However, I was in Church last night and we had lots of extra security placed there by the security department in our neighbourhood.

“It is too early to tell what the outcome of the state of emergency will be but it will give the government free hand to take extra measures such as instantly capturing of suspects and trying to stop suspects before they commit attacks.

Egypt's usual Easter celebrations have been stripped back over terror fears

“Only time will tell if this will lead to greater safety for Christians on the ground.

“We do have strong concerns especially Saturday evening when the main Easter service starts and ends at midnight. It is one of the most heavily attended services of the year.

“It has been announced by Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic that church services will take place but no other celebrations.”

The Egyptian government has deployed police to churches across the country with security barriers and metal detectors in place to protect those attending services.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government has enforced a state of emergency in an effort to protect Christians and stop further ISIS attacks.

The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese confirmed celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations” this year.

Bishop Macarius, head of the Coptic diocese in Minya, south of Cairo, said the church will mark Easter in a subdued fashion with none of the celebrations and visits from dignitaries that would normally enliven the day.

ISIS has waged a low-level war against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for years but it is increasingly targeting Christians and broadening its reach into Egypt’s mainland.

The increased threat has forced some Christians to leave their homes with others determined to remain defiant in the face of terror.

The Christian added: “A few people have been worried and talked about leaving but committed active Christians with a strong belief want to stay. They are determined to go to church in spite of the threats.”

Religious minorities are increasingly targeted by Sunni Islamist militants, posing a challenge to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has pledged to protect them as part of his campaign against extremism.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middle East’s biggest Christian community with a history dating back nearly 2,000 years.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 90 million people, have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders.

One Christian leader based in Cairo told Express.co.uk the Christian community faces persecution due to misconceptions.

Again declining to reveal his identity for fear of reprisals, he said: “In large parts of the society there is a massive misconception concerning the Christian faith.

“Christians are considered as infidels, following a corrupt faith, reading a corrupt bible. A second aspect to consider is that much of the population is either illiterate or very poorly educated. They will blindly follow teaching of those who uphold the conception that Christians are infidels.”

It comes as Egypt’s interior ministry on Thursday identified the suicide bomber in the church bombing in the city of Tanta as Mamdouh Amin Mohamed Baghdadi, a resident of Qena, south of Cairo.

A ministry statement said Baghdadi was born in 1977 and was one of 19 suspected militants believed to belong to a cell behind a December suicide bombing of Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral, another attack claimed by ISIS.

The statement said the authorities had arrested three of the 19 suspected militants in the cell.

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