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Rape vengeance trio kill seven in church ambush

Three men in a car have killed at least seven people after spraying automatic gunfire into a crowd of churchgoers in Egypt as they left a midnight Mass for Coptic Christmas.

Egypt's interior ministry said it suspected that last night's attack, just before midnight, was in retaliation for the rape in November of a Muslim girl by a Christian man in the same town.

It said said witnesses had identified the lead attacker.

The killings took place in the town of Nag Hamadi in Qena province, about 40 miles from the famous ancient ruins of Luxor.

A local security official said seven people were dead and three seriously wounded.

Bishop Kirollos, of the Nag Hamadi Diocese, said six male churchgoers and one security guard were killed. He said he had left St John's Church minutes before the attack.


"A driving car swerved near me, so I took the back door. By the time I shook hands with someone at the gate, I heard the mayhem, lots of machine gun shots," Bishop Kirollos said.

The bishop said he was concerned about violence on the eve of Coptic Christmas, which falls today, because of previous threats following the rape of the girl in November.

He got a message on his mobile phone saying: "It is your turn."

"I did nothing with it. My faithful were also receiving threats in the streets, some shouting at them, 'We will not let you have festivities'," the bishop said.

Because of the threats, he said he ended his Christmas Mass an hour early.

Bishop Kirollos said Muslim residents of Nag Hamadi and neighbouring villages rioted for five days in November and torched and damaged Christian properties in the area after the rape.