A squad of terrorist gunmen attacked the Mar Mina church in southern Cairo on Friday, killing between eight and ten people and wounding at least five more, according to various reports.
According to the BBC, Egyptian police patrolling near the church approached two men who were behaving suspiciously. The police were fired upon. Three officers were killed in the ensuing gun battle, along with one of the terrorists. A suicide vest or explosive belt was found on the dead attacker, indicating a far more devastating atrocity was planned. Previous bombing attacks targeting Coptic churches in Egypt have killed dozens of people.
The UK Guardian cites Egyptian media sources that say at least one attacker was able to flee the scene, while another was overpowered and restrained by police and bystanders. Including the dead attacker, at least three people were involved in the terrorist squad.
“He did not manage to get in. He just got everyone who was about to enter the church,” a spokesman for the Mar Mina church told the New York Times.
The Times notes another incident was reported on Friday involving a gun attack in Helwan at an appliance shop owned by a Copt. At least two people were reportedly killed in that attack.
Smartphone users have begun posting footage of the attack online. This clip shows part of the gunfight between one of the attackers and police officers:
‼️😯🔥 #Egypt: raw footage (first images) of the attack on a Christian Coptic church in southern #Cairo, by an armed islamic terrorist. 10 people were killed in the attack. The attacker opened fire outside the church and wounded 5 guards before being shot dead by the police. pic.twitter.com/VgLtwOPMJ7
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) December 29, 2017
Police protection for Coptic churches has increased ahead of Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7. The Egyptian Ministry of Defense has said it will mobilize troops to augment the 200,000 police deployed at more than 2,600 churches around Egypt for the Christmas celebration. Security raids have also been carried out against suspected militants in advance of the holiday.
No one has claimed responsibility as of Friday morning, but the Islamic State has largely claimed responsibility for previous attacks on Christian churches in Egypt.