World

Gunmen kill nine in church near Cairo

CAIRO: Gunmen killed at least nine people, including three police officers, in an attack on a Coptic Christian church south of Cairo yesterday, medical and security sources said.

The two attackers opened fire at the entrance to the church of Mar Mina in Helwan district, which was being guarded by police in the run-up to Orthodox Christmas celebrations next week, security sources said.

One attacker was shot dead by security forces, the sources and the state-run news agency Mena reported. State television said the second attacker had been captured.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bomb attacks on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral last December, which killed 28 people.

The Health Ministry said nine people had been killed yesterday in addition to the gunman, and five were wounded, including two women in serious condition.

Local media said the dead attacker had been wearing an explosive belt, and that two other bombs had been defused near the church.

Sirens were heard in central Cairo immediately after the incident.

Police have stepped up security measures around churches ahead of the Coptic Christmas celebrations on Jan 7, deploying officers outside Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the bigger churches. - REUTERS

WORLD