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Egyptian police arrest 3 people suspected of planning attacks on churches

(Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)Security forces stand guard at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017.

The Egyptian police have arrested three people who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks on churches during the Easter celebrations.

The three suspected terrorists were arrested at the Maragha center in the southern province of Sohag, Middle East Monitor reported, citing Erem News.

Official sources noted that one man was arrested at a security checkpoint after the police found printed material supporting the Islamic State in the suspect's possession.

One suspect had reportedly confessed during interrogation that he and his friends forming a cell that planned on conducting an attack on churches on Easter day. Two people associated with the suspect were later arrested and referred for investigation.

In preparation for the Easter celebrations, the authorities stepped up security near churches on Saturday.

An Easter mass presided by Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was held on Saturday at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. The service marking Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection was reportedly attended by some bishops, government ministers, and parliament members.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb reportedly expressed solidarity with Christians by congratulating Tawadros and Egyptian Christians on Easter. In a statement, the imam emphasized that the strong national bond between Muslims and Christians is an embodiment of tolerance and coexistence.

Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel Ghafar also congratulated Tawadros, saying, the Egyptians have been successful in thwarting attempts to the country's unity and diversity.

That same day, about four thousand Copts were present in al-Qiama (Resurrection) Church to witness the phenomenon of Holy Light.

Tawadros had congratulated President Abdel Fatah al Sisi for winning a second term and prayed that he will continue his efforts in developing the country.

Last year, Egypt declared a state of emergency after 44 people were killed and 100 were injured in twin suicide bombings on Palm Sunday. The attacks took place at Mar Girgis church in Tanta and in front of St. Mark's in Alexandria.

The army has been trying to prevent attacks by an ISIS-affiliated terror group in Egypt's North Sinai since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in 2013. Apart from targeting Christians, the group has also killed policemen, military and civilians mainly in North Sinai, but also other parts of the country.

On Sunday, the Egyptian military announced that it has killed four jihadists and arrested two more as part of its ongoing campaign to eliminate terrorists in Sinai.

The campaign was launched after Sisi gave the military a three-month deadline to crush ISIS following an attack on a Sinai mosque in November.

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