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ICC Note: In the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 6, unidentified gunmen shot and killed two police officers standing guard outside the Church of the Virgin Mary in Minya, Egypt. The attack coming on Christmas Eve for the millions of Coptic Christians across Egypt raised serious security concerns. Church leaders in Minya decided to cancel the Christmas celebrations as a mark of mourning with the families of the two officers who were killed. Security was heightened across the city in preparation for Christmas, security officials said.

01/06/2015 Egypt (Mada Masr) Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant congregations in Minya released a statement on Tuesday announcing the cancelation of Wednesday’s Christmas celebrations in solidarity with the families of the two policemen who died earlier on Tuesday morning while protecting a church in Minya.

“Following a discussion between the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches in Minya, and in light of the tragic incident which took place on Tuesday morning where two brave policemen died while performing their national duty to protect churches, we decided to restrict Christmas celebrations to Tuesday’s midnight mass,” the statement said.

“We apologize for not carrying out the official celebrations in solidarity with policemen who offer the greatest sacrifices to protect the safety of people and the state.”

The statement offered condolences to families of the Tuesday’s victims, as well as “the families of all police martyrs in the country.”

Unidentified gunmen shot the officers while they were guarding the Church of the Virgin Mary.

General Osama Metwally, the security director in Minya, told the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) that a state of emergency was declared in the city. Security forces are currently investigated the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two policemen.

The attack comes on Coptic Christmas Eve. The holidays had prompted heightened security around churches. Metwally told AMAY that security around churches would be increased as a result of the attack.

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