Europe's Copts on high alert after church bombing


European Coptic churches are on high alert following the New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 23 worshipers.

Authorities are reinforcing security around Coptic churches across Europe, after threats they will be the next terrorist targets.

In France, a parishioner alerted authorities of an Islamist website threatening two Paris-area churches and dozens of others around the world. France has an estimated 45,000 Coptic Christians, the highest population in Europe.

According to reports, the Internet threats target Coptic churches in the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, and Germany.

Investigations continue, meanwhile, into the Alexandria bombing, which no one has claimed.

Evidence points to a suicide bombing: a severed head and foot found at the scene probably belonged to the bomber, who was likely a man in his thirties, the police said.

Egyptian investigators suspect that the bomber planned to enter the church, which was holding a New Year's Eve mass, but was blocked by police guards at its gates. He then set off an explosives belt packed with between 22 and 33 pounds of TNT, bolts and ball bearings as the congregants emerged shortly after midnight.

Egypt’s government, which consistently denies any sectarian tension in the country, blamed “foreign elements” for the planning and execution of the suicide bombing, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior.

Security outside the country’s churches had been heightened for weeks, following a threat late last year to Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church by an Iraq-based Al Qaeda group.