At least nine people are dead after two gunmen opened fire outside a Coptic Church on the south side of the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The attack occurred at the Mar Mina church in the Helwan City district. Initial reports indicate that both police officers and members of the congregation were killed in the attack. One of the gunmen was arrested on the spot, the other was shot dead by security forces.
The Ministry of the Interior said on its Facebook page that the arrested attacker was 33-year-old Ibrahim Ismail Ismail Moustafa, and that he was known to have participated in five different attacks between 2016 and 2017.
The ministry also called him “a well-known terrorist who participated before in attacks on policemen and civilians.”
Footage of the attack has emerged on YouTube:
Witness Samir Gerges said people inside the church quickly shut the gates when the shootout began, but that bullets still entered the building, as reported by the Daily Mail.
“Once the gunfire was heard, the gates were closed immediately,” witness Raouth Atta said. “People were terrified and wanted to check on their families in other buildings of the church. We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out.”
Despite armed guards keeping watch over the Church, the gunmen managed to claim a number of lives in their attack. According to one source, two improvised explosive devices were dismantled following the shooting.
“Dozens of people ran to the church entrance to see the source of the shooting. I saw the terrorist lying on the floor bleeding as policemen surrounded him. He had a beard and had a big [armour] belt around him,” said local rickshaw driver Mostafa, as reported by The Guardian.
Another witness, Father Aghathon Riad, said that gunshots rang out shortly after the service had ended. “I went downstairs to check what was happening,” he told CNN. “I instructed the people in the ground floor to go upstairs. I took some of them to my office.” He also testified to the fact the Church doors were closed immediately – a move he said most likely “saved a lot of lives.”
The Coptic Orthodox has now 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 office of the Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi condemned the heinous acts of violence, sent condolences to the victims’ families, and vowed that such violence would not break Egyptian “national unity.”
“The Presidency of the Republic reiterates that these desperate terrorist attempts will not undermine the resolve and the entrenched national unity of the Egyptian people, but will only increase their determination to continue on the path to eliminate terrorism and extremism from their country,” the presidential statement read.
The Coptic Church also said that two more people were gunned down at a local Christian-owned electronics shop, posting to Facebook:
الجمعة 29 ديسمبر 2017 م .. 20 كيهك 1734 ش. بخصوص الاعتداء على كنيسة الشهيد مارمينا ومحل يملكه مسيحي بحلوان (1) تعرضت…
“About the attack on the church of martyr mạrmynạ and a Christian shop in if (1)
The Church of martyr mạrmynạ was attacked by a terrorist attack this morning with a terrorist attack on the church, by unknown persons, which has so far resulted in the death of a member of the security force responsible for securing the church and five of the church people, as well as a number of
And the names of martyrs:
1-Emad Abdel Shahid 45 years
Serenity 2-Year-old serenity
3-Depositary Mark Mark 65 year
4-Evelyn thanked God 52 years
5-good crush 90 years
Reza Abdel Rahman 45 years of security force
A domestic appliance shop in the project area, owned by a Christian person, has also been subjected to another attack which led to the death of two people (Sons):
“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,” Abanoub Ayman, who lives below the shop, told the Guardian.
“The government [police] came and took the bodies and closed the shop,” Ayman added, who regularly prays at the Mar Mina church. “It has to do with what happened at the church.”
Over 100 Christians have been slaughtered in Egypt over the past year, with most attacks being claimed by ISIS. On Palm Sunday, some 49 people were killed in massive bombings attacks at two churches in Tanta and Alexandria.
In May, gunmen murdered at least 28 Coptic Christians as they traveled to a monastery.