Sunday 16 December 2018

Gunmen kill nine in attack on Egyptian church

People gather near the site of attack. Photo: Reuters.
People gather near the site of attack. Photo: Reuters.

Ali Delafey

Gunmen opened fire on a church south of Cairo yesterday, killing at least nine people in the latest attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Policemen shot one of the gunmen dead and arrested another, state media and officials said.

One of the gunmen's victims was a police officer, state television reported.

The shooters also wounded five security guards outside the church, and then tried to storm the building when police shot one dead, police officials said. State television said the second had been captured.

Cellphone footage posted on social media appeared to show a bearded gunman wearing a bulky ammunition vest sprawled on a street, barely conscious, as people restrained his arms before they handcuffed him.

Isil's affiliate in Egypt has killed dozens of Christians in church bombings and shootings over the past year, and has threatened further attacks against the minority.

Egypt's Coptic Christians make up about 10pc of the country's 93 million people, and are the largest religious minority in the region.

Isil had claimed a suicide bombing of a Cairo church in December 2016, followed by bombings of two churches north of the capital in April.

A month later, Isil gunmen shot dead about 30 Christians south of Cairo as they travelled to a monastery.

The jihadists are believed to have also carried out a massacre of Muslim worshippers in Sinai last month.

They killed more than 300 in an attack on a mosque associated with the mystical Sufi strand of Islam, which Isil views as heretical.

Egypt imposed a state of emergency following the church attacks and shootings, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has demanded that the army quell the jihadists with "brutal force" following the massacre at the mosque.

The group has been waging a deadly insurgency based in the Sinai peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

It has increasingly targeted civilians, as attacks on the security forces have become more difficult.

The army has poured in thousands of troops backed with armour and jets in a bid to crush the Sinai-based jihadists, but attacks have continued.

The attack on the church came a day after six Egyptian soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Sinai.

Last week, Isil claimed responsibility for firing an anti-tank missile at a helicopter in a North Sinai airport as the defence and interior ministers were visiting.

The attack killed an aide to the defence minister and a helicopter pilot, but both ministers returned to Cairo unscathed.

Irish Independent

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