Egyptian authorities have put up a heavy security cordon around the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo hours before Christmas Eve Mass, using bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and officers to try to prevent another attack like the New Year’s suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been threatening Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays and militant websites have even carried lists of churches in Egypt to target with their addresses.

Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on Thursday night and Friday.

Police were preventing cars from parking in the vicinity of churches around the country and planned to check identity cards carefully at all entrances and to prevent anyone from entering with bags.

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