Security beefed up as Copts prepare to celebrate Christmas
The country’s interior ministry said a gunman killed at least two people at a shop in the Helwan suburb south of Cairo Friday, just over a week away from Coptic Christmas, on Jan. 7. They were identified by Egypt’s Coptic Church as Christians, according to National Public Radio.
The interior ministry said the gunman then tried to break through a security checkpoint in front of Mar Mina Church, about three miles away. “He opened fire, killing a policeman and at least six others whom the Coptic Church identified as church members,” NPR reported.
Boules Haliem, a church spokesman, told the New York Times that worshipers were attacked as they were leaving the church, and at least eight were killed, along with one police officer. Eight more worshipers and a police officer were wounded.
Egyptian media reported that the assailants were also carrying explosives, suggesting that the violence could have been far worse.
Earlier this week, Egypt’s Ministry of Defense said that it’s mobilizing part of the armed forces to help provide security for Christmas celebrations, NPR said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. More than 100 Christians have been killed in Egypt in the past year, with most attacks claimed by the local branch of the Islamic State group, said the BBC.
Last April at least 45 people died in twin attacks on Coptic churches in Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 29 Copts were killed on a bus en route to a monastery in central Egypt in May and a Coptic Orthodox priest was stabbed to death in Cairo in October.