Churches closed in Egypt over attack fears

CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian religious officials say authorities have shuttered three Coptic Christian churches over fears of attacks by Islamic militants.

The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by fundamentalists. A third was closed due to fears of attacks. The statement was issued late Saturday.

Minya Governor Essam Badawi on Monday denied the churches were closed for security reasons, saying they were "unlicensed houses" that lacked the documentation needed to "perform religious rites."

He confirmed, however, that 15 suspects were arrested over an attempted attack on one of the locations on Friday.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population. Islamic extremists have targeted them on a number of occasions in recent years.