Egypt today tightened security outside churches as Coptic Christians prepared for a subdued Easter mass days after suicide bombers killed scores of people in two churches north of the capital. Worshippers will pass through arduous checks outside churches after police, backed by the military, beefed up security following the Palm Sunday church bombings that killed 45 people in two cities north of Cairo. The government had declared a state of emergency and called in the army to protect "vital" installations following the suicide bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, which were claimed by the Islamic State group. Police have deployed in force since Friday creating a cordon outside churches for initial inspection, and worshippers will be searched again with metal detectors at church gates, interior ministry officials said. The heightened security procedures include preventing cars from parking in streets adjacent to churches, according to the officials. "Security has indeed improved so much as it seems the situation needed to be tightened up a lot," said Coptic Church spokesman Boulos Halim. Coptic Pope Tawadros II will lead Easter mass in Cairo's Saint Mark's Cathedral, while the church said celebrations this year would be scaled back. "Tanta and Alexandria created a big shock, for all of Egypt," Halim said. Easter, which along with Christmas is one of Christianity's most important events, marks what followers believe was the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his crucifixion. In Egypt, Copts break a 55-day fast abstaining from all animal products following Saturday's mass. Sunday's bombings, the deadliest attack on Copts in recent memory, were the latest in a series of attacks against the Christians who make up around 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million people. In December, an IS suicide bomber struck a Cairo church, killing 29 people. Halim said the church will forgo Sunday morning's traditional celebrations, and instead members will visit the families of "martyrs" as well as those wounded in the blasts, including police officers. "The happiness of resurrection helps us overcome feelings of pain," said Halim. IS, which has waged an insurgency in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has seen scores of attacks on security forces, has threatened further attacks on Copts.
Security tight as Egypt Copts prepare for Easter mass