CAIRO (AFP) - The Egyptian army foiled a bid early Monday to attack a Coptic church in the Rafah border town with Gaza as the Christian community began celebrating its Christmas, MENA news agency reported.

“Army units foiled an attack against the Rafah church at 1:00 am (2300 GMT Sunday) and seized a car packed with explosives and weapons near the church,” the official news agency said.

Another car carrying masked men sped away as the patrols seized the explosives-packed Toyota vehicle, MENA said.

Egypt’s Coptic minority celebrates Monday its first Christmas under Islamist rule and amid a climate of fear and uncertainty for their future, although President Mohamed Mursi has pledged to be the “president of all Egyptians.”

Egyptian security sources suggested, meanwhile, that the planned attack could have been aimed at a military camp under construction near the church which has been targeted in the past by the militants. They said the church has been lying abandoned for the past two years. Mursi, who hails from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, visited the Sinai peninsula in October to meet with and reassure Coptic families, telling them that “your security is our security”.

Egypt’s Copts, who make up six to 10 percent of the country’s population of 83 million, have regularly complained of discrimination and marginalisation and have also been the target of numerous sectarian attacks.