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Egypt's Coptic churches cancel summer activities amid security threats

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Mourners gather at the Sacred Family Church for the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed on Friday in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017.

Christian churches in Egypt have canceled pilgrimages, holidays and conferences for the remainder of July and August due to security threats.

The Anglican, Catholic and Coptic Orthodox churches in the country have suspended their summer activities after authorities warned them about possible attacks by Islamic militants.

CBS News reported that the warning was delivered to church representatives during a meeting with top army and security commanders in the southern city of Assiut earlier this week.

The church representatives were told that army troops, backed by armored vehicles and snipers, will be deployed outside monasteries hosting major religious festivals in the coming weeks.

A Coptic church official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that his church received "oral instructions this week, nothing written, to prevent panic." The source noted that the church was provided with additional security forces this week to secure its gates.

The Egyptian Catholic church stated that it received similar warnings from the authorities. Father Rafik Greish, a spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said that the church "complied with the interior minister's decision to cancel church trips and camps until further notice."

Dr. Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, said that he had also issued instructions to member churches to cancel trips and events for the next three weeks.

"Warm greetings in the name of Jesus. In light of recent developments, please stop all church trips and conferences [for] the next three weeks of July 2017. This is a serious matter. Any trip or conference [that continues] will be the personal responsibility of the organiser," an unofficial translation of Zaki's statement read, as reported by World Watch Monitor.

Security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed the heightened measures and the warnings issued to the churches.

The warnings came after the Islamic State ambushed a bus that was transporting Coptic Christians to the St. Samuel Monastery in Minya in May. At least 29 Copts were killed in the attack, including women and children.

ISIS also took credit for the attack that killed at least 23 soldiers at two military checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula last week.

The militants have vowed to go after Egypt's Christians, who account for about 10 percent of the country's population of 93 million, for their support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the ouster of an Islamist president in 2013.

The terrorist group has killed more than 100 Coptic Christians since December in four separate attacks targeting members of the ancient community.

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