Fri | Oct 19, 2018

10 killed in shoot-out outside Cairo church

Published:Saturday | December 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Bullet holes are seen on the police booth outside Mar Mina church in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt, yesterday, where at least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, have been killed in a shoot-out outside the church.



At least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, were killed in a shoot-out outside a church and at a nearby store owned by a Christian in a Cairo suburb, Egypt's Health Ministry said yesterday. It was the latest attack targeting the majority Muslim country's embattled Christian minority.

The attack outside the Coptic Church of Mar Mina left at least one policeman dead and five others wounded, including two critically, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said.

The assailant was also killed, he added.

The shoot-out took place when a gunman on a motorcycle tried to break through the security cordon set up outside the church, said the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police. An explosive device was in the assailant's possession when arrested, it added.

The attack comes amid tightened security around churches and Christian facilities ahead of the Coptic Orthodox Christian celebrations of Christmas on January 7. Police have been stationed outside churches and in nearby streets across Cairo. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has personally chaired meetings with his top security chiefs in recent days to discuss security during New Year's Eve and the Orthodox Christmas.

A video circulating on social media after yesterday's attack apparently shows the gunman lying on the ground with his face covered in blood. Authorities have closed off the area around the church.

The Interior Ministry said the assailant had earlier opened fire at a nearby store.

The shoot-out outside the church and at the store killed a total of eight people and a policeman, the ministry said. The assailant was wounded in the gunfire exchange before his arrest, said the statement, which did not clarify whether he later died.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of Islamic militants who have for years battled security forces in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency now led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group. It is centred in the turbulent northern part of Sinai but has also carried out attacks in the mainland.