Greek police has increased security measures in Coptic churches after the deadly blasts in Egypt that cost the lives of 45 people. The three official Coptic churches located in Athens have been under strict surveillance and security patrols.
The security plan went into effect already on Holy Monday, a day after the ISIS attack on Palm Sunday.
The security measures include regular patrols by police vehicles and units on motorcycles, deployment of police officers near the churches in order to identify suspicious persons, check and verify identification papers and data.
Greek police is in direct contact with leaders and priests of the Coptic community in Athens, so that the latter report any movement of action causing ‘surprise of suspicion.’
There are three Coptic Churchs in Athens, in Polygono and Menidi suburbs and in the district of Kypseli in the center of the Greek capital.
Two blasts targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday have killed at least 44 people, officials said.
An explosion at St George’s Coptic church in Tanta killed 27 people. Hours later, a blast outside St Mark’s Coptic church in Alexandria left 17 dead.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the explosions, the latest in a series of attacks targeting the Christian minority in the country.
In Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside the church targeted but was not hurt, state media reported.
Several police officers, including one policewoman, were among those killed. The suicide bomber blew himself up after they stopped him from entering the church.
The first explosion in Tanta, 95km (60 miles) north of Cairo, took place near the altar of the church. It remains unclear if it was also caused by a suicide bomber.
“I saw pieces of body parts and broken seats. There was so much blood everywhere, some people had half of their bodies missing. The first three rows [inside the church] were destroyed,” Nabil Nader, an eyewitness, said.
The explosions injured at least 71 people in Tanta and 35 others in Alexandria.
The blasts appear to have been timed for maximum impact, as people gathered to mark Palm Sunday. It is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
The Copts are one of the most ancient Christian communities and the largest still left in the Middle East. According to tradition, the Church was established by apostle and evangelist Saint Mark in the middle of the 1st century, approximately 42 A.D.
Copts and Greek Orthodox celebrate Easter on April 16, 2017.