Egypt on high alert for Christmas

In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, while Copts mark the occasion on Jan. 7. 
Updated 25 December 2018
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Egypt on high alert for Christmas

  • In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25
  • The Coptic Christmas is a national holiday in Egypt

CAIRO: Egyptian Christians marked Christmas this year with a mixture of joy and apprehension, as the Interior Ministry issued a high security alert and deployed forces in strategic areas and churches nationwide.

“It’s that time of year when our alertness and efforts significantly increase. I have continuous shifts until mid-January,” a police officer in Cairo told Arab News.

In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, while Copts mark the occasion on Jan. 7. 

A day ahead of the Christmas celebrations, many Christians in Egypt take time off to prepare for the festivities. 

Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha, a member of the Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism, said there is very tight security in place to thwart potential terrorist acts.

Fady Atef, a Copt who works as a salesman in Cairo, told Arab News: “We’re ready for the celebrations without fear. We don’t fear terrorism. We celebrate Christmas and we use faith to overcome fear.”

He added: “I think all Christians will go to church without fear. We trust our security apparatus and we feel secure.”

But on social media, other Copts expressed fear and anger about the loss of loved ones in previous years. 

Some blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, some blamed foreign enemies, and others blamed the government for failing to provide adequate security.

“Fear and threat, this is how we feel when we approach such holy days,” said one Copt on social media.

Last month, terrorists ambushed a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery in Minya governorate, killing seven and wounding 12.

In December 2017, two terrorists attacked the Mar Mina Church in the city of Helwan, killing nine people and injuring 10.

In December 2016, an attack on the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo killed 27 people.

The Coptic Christmas feast ends a 43-day fast that begins in November. During the fast, Copts abstain from eating any food that comes from animals.

The Coptic Christmas is a national holiday in Egypt. According to government statistics, Christians make up 10 percent of the total population of nearly 100 million.


Car bomb explodes in Assad's Syria stronghold Latakia

Updated 22 January 2019
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Car bomb explodes in Assad's Syria stronghold Latakia

BEIRUT: A car bomb detonated in Syria's government-held city of Latakia on Tuesday, killing the driver and injuring several other people, Syrian state media reported.
Footage carried on the state-run Al-Ikhbariya news channel showed a large group of people milling around in a street while wreckage smouldered on the ground.
Though President Bashar Al-Assad has regained control over more than half of Syria, attackers have periodically continued to strike in cities he controls with suicide blasts and car bombs.
State news agency Sana reported that the driver of the vehicle, a Suzuki minivan, had been killed in the explosion, and that four other people had been wounded.
It reported that the authorities had dismantled another explosive device in the same location before the blast in the vehicle.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported that five people had been injured in the explosion.