Twelve people have died in twin attacks on Coptic Christians in the Helwan area south of Cairo, officials say.
Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced that nine people have been killed, including two police officers, and another 10 were wounded in an attack on Mar Mina Church in Helwan, located in Greater Cairo.
Two armed terrorists reportedly attacked the church shortly before Friday prayers. One terrorist was killed at the scene of the attack. Two policemen died responding to the attack, preventing the armed terrorist from entering the church.
Eyewitnesses told private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that a man in a car carrying an automatic weapon opened fire on the church. Mostafa, an auto-rickshaw driver who was near the church, said he heard several gunshots an hour before the Muslim Friday prayers.
Egypt’s Ministry of Interior claimed in a statement that it managed to foil a greater attack involving explosives. An explosives belt was found on the dead assailant - suggesting an even more deadly attack was planned, the BBC correspondent says. It was safely defused.
The other gunman escaped but was reportedly later arrested with weapons, ammunition and a bomb.
About an hour later, a Coptic-owned shop in the same area was attacked, leaving two dead.
The Coptic Orthodox church released a statement confirming the attack. “A terrorist attack has targeted the Church of the Martyr Marmina as unknown assailants fired gunshots, killing a person from the security force guarding the church as well as five of the people of the church, in addition to other injured individuals,” it said
The Coptic church statement said a Christian-owned electronics shop in Helwan was also attacked before the church shootout, killing the brothers Romani and Attia Shaker.
Abanoub Ayman, an engineering student at Helwan University who lives below the shop, told the Guardian he was on his way to buy breakfast when he heard gunshots at 10am, and that the shooting lasted for five minutes. He said two gunmen on a motorcycle had stopped at the shop. “One of them stopped and entered the store and killed one of the brothers in front of the shop. The other brother ran after the two men but was also shot dead.”
“The government [police] came and took the bodies and closed the shop,” said Ayman, who prays at the Marmina church. “It has to do with what happened at the church.” He said the gunmen had also fired at another church, Anba Antonios, in the same area, but no one was killed.