Several Christians were gunned down as they left church services on the morning of Dec. 29 near Cairo, the Coptic Church and various government authorities reported.
At least two assailants were involved in the 10 a.m. attack on the Mar Nina Church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, government officials said. The church was full of worshipers, who were leaving the building, a Coptic Church spokesman told the New York Times.
Prior to arriving at the church, at least one of the church attackers first fired on a Coptic-owned appliance shop, killing two brothers — sons of the owner, according to a statement by the Coptic Church posted on Facebook.
CNN reported that the Coptic archbishop of the Helwan district, Father Ebram Mihail, said the attack on the church began 10 minutes after services had ended. People were streaming out the door when they were gunned down, and those still inside heard gunfire for 15 minutes, he said. Witnesses told the Associated Press that church members closed the gates, and people on the streets darted for cover.
The Interior Ministry told news media that a gunman on a motorcycle, having already killed several people, tried to break through a security barrier outside the church. He was shot in an exchange of gunfire with security personnel, the news service Al Arabiya English reported, citing police officials, and did not get into the church.
The Guardian reported that a second attacker was arrested as he tried to flee the scene. On the whole, however, early media reports were inconsistent on whether there was one, or two, attackers, and which of them had been arrested. Most reports indicated that one of the attackers had been killed and another arrested, but details were inconsistent. One was reported to have an explosive device; photos circulated on social media purported to show one of the attackers, dead in the street and wearing a bulky vest.
The attack was carried out by an affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to a statement posted on the messaging app Telegram, the Times reported.
Accounts of the number of people killed and injured by the attackers varied.
Number of people killed and injuredGovernment sources and news media provided varying accounts of the death toll at Mar Nina church south of Cairo on Dec. 29
|Worshipers at the church||Nearby Coptic-owned shop||Unspecified||Police / security officer at church||Attacker||Total dead||Injured||Source|
|5||2||1||8||Coptic Church statement posted on Facebook|
|5||2||1||8||Mada Masr, citing the Coptic Church|
|10||10||Mada Masr, citing the health ministry|
|9||1||10||5||Reuters, citing the interior and health ministries|
|8||1||1||10||5||AP, citing the health ministry|
|6||2||1||1||10||4||Ahram Online, citing interior and health ministries|
|5||2||1||1||9||"Several"||The Guardian, citing interior ministry, Coptic Church statement|
|6||2||1||9||BBC, citing interior ministry|
|8||1||1||10||5||CNN, citing health ministry|
|9||1||10||5||Al Arabiya English, citing health ministry and the Coptic Church|
|6||2||1||1||10||Unspecified number||Daily Nation, citing interior and health ministries|
|8||2||1||1||12||9||New York Times, citing Coptic Church spokesman|
The World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the twin attacks on Coptic Christians in the Helwan area south of Cairo. Ten people died when gunmen tried to storm the Mar Mina church, a Coptic Christian church… https://t.co/UlqPlx5v4D #WCC
— WCC (@Oikoumene) December 29, 2017
I strongly condemn today’s cowardly attack on Mar Mina church in Helwan city and offer the condolences of the UK to the families of the victims of the attack. The UK will continue to stand with #Egypt in the fight against terrorism.
— Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) December 29, 2017
Tragic news of attacks on #Coptic churches and worshippers in #Helwan #CairoChurchShooting. Alongside #Christians, police officers and one assailant also reportedly killed. #RIP. Praying for the safety of all over this #NewYear and #NativityFeast period. https://t.co/aY6qgptKDT
— Bishop Angaelos ن (@BishopAngaelos) December 29, 2017
— Aus Coptic Movement (@auscma) December 29, 2017
Islamist violence against Egyptian Christians has escalated during the past year. Making up about 10 percent of the population, they live in a deeply polarised society, caught between secular nationalists and radical Islamists. In 2013 they were perceived as supporting the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. Scores of churches across the country were attacked and burned. IS has vowed to “wipe them out”.
Egypt is No. 21 on the World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries were it is most difficult for Christians to live. It is published by Open Doors, a global NGO that serves Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.
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