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Islamic State

IS claims responsibility for gunman who killed nine in attack on Egyptian church

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 5:16am

The Islamic State has taken responsibility for a mass shooting at a Coptic church in Cairo on Friday that saw nine people killed, including one policeman, and more wounded.

The gunman opened fire outside the Mar Mina Church in the city’s Helwan district before policemen shot him dead, health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed told state television.

But the interior ministry said the assailant, a wanted jihadist implicated in attacks on police, had been wounded and arrested.

In a statement released via its propaganda agency Amaq, IS said a group of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack, killing 10 “crusaders” and police officers. It added that one of its fighters had been killed.

Officers were searching for a possible second gunman who may have escaped.

The attacker, who has not been identified, had been armed with an assault rifle, 150 rounds of ammunition and a bomb he intended to set off at the church, the ministry said.

It said he killed two people in a store before heading to the church, where he shot dead seven people and wounded five security guards.

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

Police later cordoned off the scene as onlookers crowded around the church and a forensics team combed the area.

Congealing blood could be seen at a guard post in front of the building.

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

Coptic Christian bishop killed in knife attack near Cairo

Islamic State 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, IS gunmen shot dead about 30 Christians south of Cairo as they travelled to a monastery.

The extremists are believed to have also carried out a massacre of Muslim worshippers in Sinai last month, killing more than 300 in an attack on a mosque associated with the Sufi strand of Islam which IS views as heretical.

Egypt imposed a state of emergency following the church attacks and shootings, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi demanded the army crush the extremists with “brutal force” following the mosque massacre.

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.

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

IS claims responsibility for Coptic Christian massacres

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

Last week, IS 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.