Mubarak promises to safeguard Christians after al-Qaida ultimatum

President Hosni Mubarak vowed on Saturday to protect Egypt’s Christians following al-Qaeda’s threats to attack the country’s minority if the Coptic Church fails to release women who have allegedly converted to Islam.

The official Middle East News Agency said Mubarak made the promise during a telephone conversation with Pope Shenoda III, the Copts' spiritual leader.

Iraq’s al-Qaida branch said last week that its 48-hour ultimatum to the Church to free “Muslim women” who are held captive had ended, warning that it would attack Christians wherever they can be reached.

Last week, Egyptian police beefed up security measures at Coptic churches across the Muslim-dominated country.

The measures came after the deadly attack on a Catholic church in Baghdad that killed 58 people and wounded nearly 80 when militants stormed the church during Sunday Mass.

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