Christians in Egypt flocked to their newly-built cathedral in the new administrative capital to celebrate the eve of the Coptic Christmas on Jan. 7 amid tightened security measures in the country.
On Saturday, Coptic Church leader Pope Tawadros II facilitated the midnight mass at the cathedral located in the new Egyptian capital, which was built to somewhat relieve the crowding in Cairo. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also attended the church service, Reuters detailed.
The heightened security surrounding the Christmas celebrations were prompted by the recent attacks on the Coptic community. More than 10 were killed during a rampage at a Coptic church and a Christian-owned store several days ahead of the occasion.
Last month, Egypt's interior ministry announced that it would deploy 230,000 security personnel to guard the Coptic Christmas celebrations, according to state news agency MENA. Sources told the agency that security personnel and officers all over the country were not allowed to take holidays and vacations so that they could keep watch over the 2,626 churches during the festivities, Ahram relayed.
"Security forces are also planned to intensify proactive hits against terrorist organisations, as well as tightening security measures at border crossings between North Sinai and other governorates, to prevent any infiltration from terrorist elements into the cities," the source told MENA.
The tight security also covered public parks, tourist sites, and other important establishments in Egypt. Security procedures were reportedly updated to make sure that all CCTV and metal detector systems in the churches were functioning.
The Christian community in Egypt has been the target of deadly terror attacks during religious holidays in the past two years. In April last year, 47 worshippers were killed in two bombings at separate churches in Tanta and Alexandria.
Suicide bombers previously struck St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo in December 2016 that led to the deaths of 29 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the said church attacks.