Coptic church officials on alert around the world

Coptic church officials from Europe to Australia, whose churches are designated by an Islamist website as targets, have become concerned about fresh attacks this weekend.

Charles Platiau/Reuters
View of the French Coptic church Sainte Marie-Saint Marc in Chatenay-Malabry, near Paris, on Jan. 4. Security has been increased outside a French Coptic Christian church on Tuesday after a French court opened an investigation into online terror threats against the church.

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The Coptic church targeted in the New Year’s attack in Alexandria, Egypt, was found on a list of targets that includes Coptic churches in Western Europe, the US, and Australia, prompting fear that some of those other churches may be the next target.

The list was found on Shumukh-al-Islam, an Islamist website linked to Al Qaeda, CNN reported. It first appeared on Dec. 2, but churches were not alarmed until after the attack in Egypt. There is concern that there will be more attacks on or around Jan. 7, when the Copts celebrate Christmas.

The website called on Muslims to assist to assist with attacks on those churches, the Herald Sun in Australia reports.

A message announcing "bomb attacks against churches during Christmas ... when they will be most crowded" was posted alongside the list of would-be targets.

"Get up and give up sleep," said the message.

"This is an important notice on bomb attacks against churches during Christmas," it said.

It urged "every Muslim who cares about the honor of his sisters to bomb these churches during Christmas celebrations, when they will be most crowded".

European countries home to churches included on the list have ratcheted up security in varying degrees.

In the Netherlands, police have been told to keep a close on eye on Coptic churches, according to De Telegraaf. There are churches on the list in Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Eindhoven. Meanwhile, France has heightened security around its 19 churches, and Germany and Britain are also on a heightened alert, CNN reports.

In Canada, private security companies have been hired to protect churchgoers during Christmas and in some places police patrols have been increased near churches, the Ottawa Citizen reports.

Last month, the same website also published a list of Coptic individuals around the world – complete with photos, addresses, and phone numbers – who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam, apparently noting them as targets. The website accused them of playing a role in attempts to convert Muslims, The Toronto Star reported.

The list contains the names of more than 200 Arab Christians living in Egypt, Europe, and North America, more than half of whom live in Canada.

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