Gunman opens fire on Cairo church; shootout kills at least 9

Bullets holes are seen on the police booth outside Mar Mina church, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, where at least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, have been killed in a shootout outside the church. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO (AP) — A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire Friday outside a church in a Cairo suburb and at a nearby store, sparking a shootout that killed at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, Egyptian authorities said.

The gunman was also killed, along with at least one police officer, officials said.

It was the latest attack claimed by Islamic State militants who target the country’s embattled Christian minority.

The attack began when the gunman tried to break through the security cordon outside the Coptic Church of Mar Mina. It was not clear how many assailants were involved. Egypt’s Interior Ministry referred to only one, but the Coptic Orthodox church mentioned “gunmen.”

Five people were wounded, including another police officer, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said.

The attack came amid tightened security around churches and Christian facilities ahead of the Coptic Orthodox Christian celebrations of Christmas on Jan. 7. Police have been stationed outside churches and in nearby streets across Cairo. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has personally chaired meetings with his top security chiefs in recent days to discuss security during New Year’s Eve and the Orthodox Christmas.

A video circulating on social media after Friday’s attack apparently showed the gunman lying on the ground with his face covered in blood. Authorities closed off the area around the church.

The Interior Ministry identified the assailant as Ibrahim Ismail Mostafa, who, the agency said, was involved in several previous militant attacks. The Interior Ministry said he was wounded and arrested but made no mention of his death, which was reported by the Health Ministry.

Copts targeted

The assailant had earlier opened fire at the nearby store owned by a Christian, the Interior Ministry said.

President Donald Trump “condemned the attack” in a phone call to Egyptian President  Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and “reiterated that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump emphasized his commitment to strengthening efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in all their forms.”

The group has for years battled security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency now led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group. It is centered in the turbulent northern part of Sinai but has also carried out attacks in the mainland.

The militants are targeting mainly security personnel and Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

The latest attack, in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan, showcases the difficulties faced by security forces in containing an insurgency that is growing in sophistication and brutality. The assault came a little more than a month after militants killed 311 worshippers inside a mosque in Sinai, the deadliest attack by militants on civilians in Egypt’s modern history.

Last week, they fired a guided rocket that destroyed an army helicopter at the airport of the city of el-Arish in northern Sinai during an unannounced visit there by the defense and interior ministers. At least one senior officer was killed and two wounded in that attack, which pointed to an unusually high level of intelligence available to the militants.

Priest David, the head of Mar Mina church, is greeted by people outside the chruch, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, where at least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, have been killed in a shootout outside the church. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Samir Gerges, a witness to Friday’s church attack, said people inside the church closed the gates when the shooting began but that some bullets penetrated the building. Gerges said he was walking along a nearby street when the gunfire broke out. He saw people running and some taking cover in a nearby restaurant.

Another witness, 40-year-old Raouth Atta, was praying inside the church when the violence broke out.

“People were terrified and wanted to check on their families in other buildings of the church,” she told The Associated Press by phone. “We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out.”

Once she was able to leave, Atta said, she saw blood everywhere.

“We kept praying,” said Father Boules, who was teaching a class in the church complex. On hearing gunfire, he went to check on his students, who were panicking and terrified.
Since December 2016, Egypt’s Copts have been targeted by the militants, who waged a series of attacks that left more than 100 dead and scores wounded. The country has been under a state of emergency since April after suicide bombings struck two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday.

The IS affiliate has claimed responsibility for all the bombings targeting Christians.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They have long complained of discrimination in the Muslim-majority nation and claim that authorities have often failed to protect them from sectarian attacks.


Just last week, hundreds of Muslim demonstrators stormed an unlicensed church south of Cairo, wounding three people. The demonstrators shouted anti-Christian slogans and called for the church’s demolition, according to the local diocese. The demonstrators destroyed the church’s fittings and assaulted Christians inside before security personnel arrived and dispersed them.

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  • the “Religion of Peace” strikes again?
    I pray the church sees this as how the Lord protected them, and not how they were persecuted.

  • Coptic News:
”Since Christianity came to Egypt in 57 A.D., we, the Christians of Egypt, have not had conflict with the Jewish people. Copts have been a marginal population held in captivity for sixteen centuries. We constitute the largest non-Arab, non-Moslem minority in the Middle East. The Church of Alexandria, is one of the oldest organizations in the Middle East. Despite this distinguished history, it is a church that has been under siege since the Islamic invasion.”

    Assyrian International News Agency (AINA):
”Keep in mind that these Christian minorities, the Assyrians, Armenians, Copts, are actually the original inhabitants of these areas with roots going back thousands of years before Christianity. What we’re seeing is a systematic attempt to cleanse the Middle East of its original inhabitants, this is a continuation of the genocide that took place in Ottoman Turkey in 1915.”

  • Why don’t you pray for world peace, and to clean up the environment, to stop disease, famines, poverty, droughts, violence, to end racism, sexism, classism, and all manner of natural disasters, and the endless stream of issues that have always, though out time, been with us??????????

    And second– No one suffers more from Islamic militancy and fundamentalism than everyday good Muslims just trying to feed their families and make a life. Having said that, well over 100 Christian churches have been attacked by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since the coup.

  • Yes Sandinwindsor, we can all see what the last 2,000 years of “Christian love” has brought to Europe? Sorry if that sounds like sarcasm, and with the Church being at the heart of much of the injustice.

  • It won’t be me worshiping the dead bones of another man, that only a few Jews worshiped during his life because they thought the messiah had come. Your fantasies will to change that. However, if it gives you comfort to purr flatteries of Jesus until the end of time, then I will not try to stop you. I have even taken an Oath to uphold and protect your Constitutional right to do so.

  • “Grant rest eternal in blessed repose, O Lord, to the souls of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, and make their memory to be eternal!”

    Prayer for the departed in the Orthodox Church. May God keep them in His eternal remembrance unto everlasting life and joy.

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