CAIRO - Egypt stopped 61 Canadian Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims from entering the country and decided to hold them at Cairo airport until their onward flight, security officials said on Sunday.

The Canadians landed in Egypt from Iraq to complete a pilgrimage to Shi'ite sites in the region, but were kept out on the orders of security authorities, said airport security officials who gave no further explanation. Canadians are usually allowed into Egypt with a visa bought upon arrival.

A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Ottawa would react later on Sunday.

The government of Egypt, an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation, has long been criticized for discriminating against the country's small Shi'ite community. Egypt's official Islamic establishment has previously warned against the spread of Shi'ite beliefs.

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