Egypt Copts observe solemn Good Friday
CAIRO - Egyptian Copts observed a solemn Good Friday with prayers and fasting, as the community reeled from two church bombings that killed dozens on Palm Sunday.
The government had declared a state of emergency and called in the army to protect "vital" installations following last week's suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group.
But in a reminder of sectarianism Copts often complain about, police officials said Muslims fought with Christians who tried praying in an abandoned home in a southern village on Thursday then set fire to four nearby homes.
Police reinforcements were sent to the town in the province of Minya, they said.
On Friday, Copts attended churches across the country to commemorate the day they believe Jesus Christ was crucified.
The services mark the Stations of the Cross, representing the Biblical account of the cross-bearing Christ as he was led to his crucifixion and burial.
The rites were especially mournful for the Christian minority following last Sunday's suicide bombings at churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria which killed 45 people, Coptic Bishop Kirillos told AFP.
"With these incidents we are now living with Christ in his pain," he said.
On Saturday, the Orthodox will mark Easter, with Coptic Pope Tawadros II leading services in Cairo's Saint Mark's Cathedral.
The church had announced it would scale back Easter celebrations to a simple mass in the wake of the bombings.
"Given the current circumstances and our solidarity with the families of the dead, we are going to limit our celebrations to Easter mass," it said in a statement.
"There will be no decorations in churches and the rooms normally reserved for the reception of worshippers wishing to exchange season's greetings will remain closed," an official at the Coptic patriarchate said.
The violence came ahead of Catholic Pope Francis's first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks.
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million, have been targeted several times in recent months.
In December, an Islamic State group suicide bomber struck a Cairo church, killing 29 people.