EL-ARISH, Egypt — The Egyptian military said Monday it foiled an attempted car bombing that was probably targeting an abandoned church or a nearby military camp under construction along the Egypt-Gaza border.
Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a statement that security forces learned that militants were preparing a car bomb late Sunday in a deserted part of the city of Rafah, which borders Gaza.
Three military vehicles raided the site, forcing the suspected militants to flee, some by foot and others in an unmarked pick-up truck.
They left behind a vehicle packed with explosives, bullet casings, and a rocket-propelled grenade, the spokesman said.
Ali said it was not immediately clear what the militants intended to attack, but that officials suspected the target was probably an abandoned church or a nearby military camp used by police and border guards.
Egypt’s Copts were celebrating Christmas on Monday, and the potential violence against a church on the holiday is unsettling for a community already anxious about the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt following the uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
Many of Rafah’s Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after receiving threats from suspected Islamic militants, who have been active in Sinai since security has crumbled in the peninsula in post-revolutionary Egypt.