Security Message for U.S. Citizens No. 1: Security Update for Coptic Christmas
January 6, 2014
Today is the eve of Coptic Christmas. Beginning this evening and carrying through tomorrow there will be religious services in and around Coptic churches throughout Egypt. This is one of the most important religious holidays for the Coptic community. There have been violent attacks on these churches as recently as August 2013, thus warranting extreme caution and careful consideration of security when visiting these institutions on holidays and anniversaries.
Due to these ongoing concerns, Egyptian Security Forces have heightened security at churches across Egypt and deployed additional police to protect those attending services. In addition to the security forces there are reports that Egyptian citizens plan to gather at churches to rally against any perceived threats, meaning there is significant potential for large gatherings and uncontrollable crowds. The potential for acts of violence is serious and real.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens remain vigilant, particularly if visiting Coptic churches over the next 48 hours. If there are signs or indications that a problem exists or is developing the best course of action is to leave the area.
As a matter of general practice, U.S. citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens in Egypt are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly.
The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times in Egypt. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Egypt, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts, can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes or Google Play to have travel information at your fingertips.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
U.S. citizens are advised to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy Cairo through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program website. If you enroll we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements and can also help your family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
For further information, U.S. citizens may call the Embassy’s American Citizens Services Unit at 2797-2301 during business hours, Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard at 2797-3300. The Embassy is located at 5 Tawfik Diab Street (formerly known as Latin America Street), Garden City, Cairo.