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Egyptian Authorities Stop Planned Islamic State Terror Attack on Coptic Monastery in Upper Egypt

Egyptian authorities have dismantled a terror cell operating in Upper Egypt that was planning attacks targeting the Coptic Christian community, including the Virgin Mary Monastery in Durunka near Assiut.

Automatic weapons and ammunition were found by the Interior Ministry when it raided the compound of the Islamic State cell.

This comes just days after two explosions killed 51 people in Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday.

Daily News Egypt reports:

The Ministry of Interior said Monday that it killed seven people in a gunfire exchange in Assiut, after attempting to arrest them on accusations of belonging to a terrorist cell adopting the ideology of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The ministry said it only identified three of them so far: 31-year-old employee at the health directorate, Hassan Abdul Aal; 22-year-old law school student, Islam Saeed; and 23-year-old Mostafa El-Sayed.

The ministry said they were found in possession of five automatic rifles among other weapons and ammunition. It said they were part of a terrorist cell that was planning to target Copts and their properties in the governorate, namely the Monastery of the Holy Virgin Mary in the village of Dronka.

The Coptic diocese of Minya, which covers the area of Assiut and has one of the largest Coptic populations in Egypt, has canceled all Easter services this week due to the continued threat.

Bishop Makarios issued a statement explaining the cancellation:

The cancellation of celebrations will apply to all churches in the diocese "due to the current circumstances the country and the Church are witnessing," the bishop announced in a statement on the Eparchy's Facebook page.

"The Easter mass will be limited to prayers only," the statement said.

"We apologise that we will not be receiving felicitations from officials or regular citizens. The Eparchy also appreciates all the kind regards it has received from everybody."