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Muslim extremists posing as beggars attacked three churches in north Egypt on Good Friday, killing one worshipper and injuring 16 others.

A security source told United Press International that the incident occurred in the morning as worshippers attended mass in the churches of Saint Georges, the Two Saints and Abu Keer in the city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea.

The source said the three attackers wearing rugged clothes used swords and knives in their attacks, before managing to flee.

Police imposed a cordon around the churches and began a thorough search for the attackers.

Hundreds of policemen were deployed in Christian-inhabited areas to prevent any possible retaliation that could lead to sectarian violence.

Friday’s incident is the second piece of sectarian violence to rock Alexandria in less than a year. Last October, sectarian clashes erupted when thousands of Muslims besieged the church of Saint Georges following rumors about the distribution of video tapes of a play filmed in the church in 2002 which contained slandering of Islam.

A nun was killed and parts of the church were burned. (upi)