Coptic Christians worldwide are warily preparing for their traditional Christmas on Friday, going on high alert for possible copycat attacks after a deadly New Year’s Day church bombing in Egypt.
Churches in Europe and Egypt are receiving extra law enforcement protection, as Copts prepare for their Christmas festivities, celebrated annually on January 7.
In Egypt, some churches posted security in and around churches while worshippers entered through metal detectors. In Europe, precautions range from increased patrols to putting up floodlights for masses. Internet threats are said to target Coptic facilities in Sweden, Britain and Germany, as well as the Dutch and French churches.
The January 1 attack in Alexandria killed 21 people and aggravated already profound Christian-Muslim tensions in Egypt. Egyptian authorities suspect al-Qaida is behind the attacks.
Last year, on Coptic Christmas Eve, January 6, gunmen killed six Copts as they were leaving services in Egypt.
Messages on websites in recent days maintained by Islamist extremists call for continued attacks on Coptic churches in various countries.
Tensions between Copts and Islamist groups escalated late last year after postings on radical websites run by the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq accused Egyptian Copts of detaining two women converts to Islam.
The fate of the two women, reported to be wives of Coptic priests, has fueled what analysts say is increasing anti-Western sentiments by radical Muslim groups. Copts say the women were detained by the church for their safekeeping.
But Islamists say the women are being held against their will for trying to convert to Islam. Al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have been quoted on Islamist websites as saying the detentions are examples of Christian and Western oppression.
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