Security

Egyptian forces seize explosives set to target Copts

By Ahmed al-Sharqawi in Cairo

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Egypt's security forces on Tuesday (January 2nd) seized explosives that were going to be used in attacks against Coptic Christmas celebrations this week. [Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Interior Ministry]

Egypt’s security agencies on Tuesday (January 2nd) seized an explosives cache in Dahshur, on the outskirts of Giza governorate.

The cache contained 35 bombs set to target Copts’ Christmas celebrations on January 7th, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

A vehicle packed with explosives was also seized, the ministry added.

"The security agencies obtained information about this cache after they had arrested an 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) element a few days ago," former assistant interior minister Abul Latif al-Badini said.

The detainee revealed that an ISIS cell in Cairo was planning to carry out attacks on churches during Coptic Christmas celebrations, he told al-Mashareq.

"The defendant admitted that the group is preparing large-scale operations against Copts, the army and police in the coming period in the [Nile] Valley and Delta to break the siege on the group in Sinai," he said.

"Explosives seized at the cache were sufficient to carry out six operations in the Valley and Delta," al-Badini said, noting that ISIS takes advantage of Christian holidays to carry out its attacks and inflict the biggest number of casualties possible.

Increased vigilance

Egyptian security agencies have stepped up their measures to secure churches this year ahead of the holidays season to prevent a repeat of terror attacks that have targeted churches in recent years.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Cairo came under a suicide bombing attack in December 2016 that claimed the lives of 29 Copts.

In April 2017, St. George's Church in Tanta and St. Mark's Church in Alexandria were targeted by two suicide bombings that killed nearly 50 people on Palm Sunday.

Investigations have revealed that ISIS leaders Ezzat Mohammed Hussein, also known as Ezzat al-Ahmar, and Amr Saad Abbas, who were behind the church attacks in Egypt, are still hiding in the Valley area, al-Badini said.

They also have revealed that the two "have restructured their cell by recruiting radical elements in the Valley and Delta who are willing to carry weapons, and that they are constantly on the move to prepare for new operations", he added.

However, this new cell "has failed to carry out any operations because of the security forces' vigilance", he said.

Egyptian security forces have thwarted 332 operations that ISIS was planning to carry out in Egypt over the past year, he said.

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