threatened (Good, LM)
Friday, January 07, 2011
Threats of terror attacks on at least four Australian churches prompted police to protect thousands
of Coptic Christians during Christmas Eve services.
Police on Thursday surrounded the Coptic Orthodox churches in Sydney after a bomb blast killed 21
people during a New Year's Eve Coptic church service in Alexandria, Egypt. Coptic Churches around
the world are also on high alert as their Christmas Eve services are scheduled for Friday
On Thursday night in Sydney, bomb searches and police helicopters were part of the security
measures that soured Christmas Eve celebrations.
Some church officials are worried that an attack may eventuate when least expected on any on of
their churches, monasteries or schools in Australia.
A police detail searched St Antonious and St Paul parish in Guildford, in Sydney's west, on
Thursday afternoon prior to its 7pm Christmas Eve services, a church official told AAP. Up to 700
parishioners were estimated to be in attendance. During the service, teams of officers surrounded
the area while helicopters with spotlights searched the local suburb.
'There were threats to our church - three or four churches in the (Sydney) Coptic church,' said the
man who asked not to be identified.
He said NSW Police contacted the church this week to say the Guildford site and three others in
Sydney had been the target of a terrorist threat.
Archangel and St Bishoy at Mt Druitt, in Sydney's west, St Demiana and St Athanasius at Punchbowl,
in Sydney's southwest and St Mary and St Merkorious, at Rhodes, were understood to be on the threat
A woman witnessed a police operation in her neighbourhood at Arncliffe, where St Mark Coptic Church
is located in Sydney's south.
'The police helicopter is sweeping the suburb with this massive spotlight,' the woman told
All of the churches cancelled their traditional dinners that would normally happen after Christmas
(they've probably been given these
dinners as take-aways, LM)!
The spokesman said Thursday's threat, which resulted in no reported incidents, could have been a
'They want you to focus on the area that they're not going to be touching,' he said.
'And even though the threat was for Christmas Eve, they might do it on a normal Sunday. That's how
Police issued a statement to AAP following Thursday's operations.
'The NSW Police Force is closely monitoring international developments in the wake of the attack on
the Coptic community in Egypt,' the statement read.
'Police have met with local Coptic leaders and are currently working with them to allay any fears
within that community.'
Peter Mikhail attended the Guildford service and said the threats soured the service and have put
fear into the congregation.
'It was not a nice way to be celebrating Christmas here in a country where you're supposed to be
safe,' Mr Mikhail told AAP.
He said the traditionally long mass but had to be cut short at police request and people were
'We went to church today feeling quite apprehensive thinking oh my God' what if something does take
place,' Mr Mikhail said" (Bunch of cowards and whingers,