Egyptian security forces arrested three people suspected of planning to target Coptic churches during last Sunday’s Orthodox Easter celebrations.

Coptic Church in central Egypt. (Photo: World Watch Monitor, 2004)
Coptic Church in central Egypt. Photo: World Watch Monitor

Sources said that police arrested three Egyptians in the city of Maragha, in Egypt’s southern province of Sohag last Thursday, as churches prepared for three days of services culminating on Easter Day. All three were accused of “the preparation of terrorist operations against some churches,” the Abu Dhabi-registered Erem News reported.

Police at a checkpoint found a man with books that supported terrorist organisations, including Islamic State. During questioning, he admitted that he had formed a cell with some of his friends to target Coptic churches during their Easter celebrations, Erem News reported. Two other men were arrested and all three were referred to the Public Prosecutor for investigation, in preparation for their referral to the judicial authorities.

There was a sense of relief among Egyptian Christians that this year’s popular and crowded Easter celebrations took place without incident as Copts marked the first anniversary of suicide bomb attacks on two cathedrals that killed 46 people – including 36 Christians – and injured more than 100 on Palm Sunday last year.

In the run-up to Easter the Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that it had increased its security-readiness to the maximum degree, to ensure the celebration of Christian holidays without incident.

The ministry decided to take precautionary measures to secure citizens’ celebrations, and to respond decisively to any attempt to disrupt or disturb the atmosphere of celebrations.