CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians have been told by church leaders to cancel all events and activities outside churches in July because of a security threat, church and security sources said on Thursday.
The warning followed an attack in May by Islamic State on Copts traveling to a monastery in central Egypt that killed 29 people. A month earlier, 44 people were killed in bomb attacks at a cathedral and another church on Palm Sunday.
Sources said the warning was given to individual church leaders by a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Copts on trips or youth camps had been told to cut short their activities and return home early.
The Egyptian Catholic church said it got the same instructions. The church “complied with the interior minister’s decision to cancel church trips and camps until further notice,” Father Rafik Greish, a spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, told Reuters late on Thursday.
A Coptic church official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters that his church received “oral instructions this week, nothing written, to prevent panic,” he said.
The source said the church was provided with more security forces to secure the gates of the church this week.
Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State group in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013.
At least 23 soldiers were killed last week when suicide car bombs tore through two military checkpoints in the region in an attack claimed by Islamic State. It was one of the bloodiest assaults on security forces in years.
But Islamic State has also intensified attacks in the mainland in recent months, often targeting Coptic Christians. About 100 Copts have been killed since December.
(Reporting by Malak Ghobrial; additional reporting by Mahmoud Morad, Amina Ismail and Ahmed MOhamed Hassan; writing by Patrick Markey, editing by Larry King)