Nine people were killed Friday in the southern suburbs of Cairo in a new attack on the Christian minority in Egypt, perpetrated by an armed jihadist in a church and claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
The Christians of Egypt, the Copts, have for one year been the target of several large-scale attacks by the extremist organization, which have killed more than 100 people.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said at first that the attacker had been shot dead after killing nine people and injuring several others.
But the Interior Ministry then said that the assailant, a jihadist wanted for attacks on the police, had been wounded and arrested.
According to the ministry, he was armed with assault rifles, ammunition and a bomb that he intended to blow up in the Saint-Mina church in Helwan. He first killed two people by opening fire on one shop and then went to the church and killed seven others, including an officer.
Five security guards were injured, police officials said. The attacker opened fire outside Saint-Mina church and attempted to storm the building, they said.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by its propaganda agency Amaq.
The Egyptian presidency said in a statement that the attack “would strengthen the (government’s) resolve to rid the country of terrorism and extremism”.
Video footage broadcast on social networks shows the alleged assailant, a bearded man wearing a jacket with ammunition lying on the floor, barely aware as people handcuff him.
The police then banned access to the scene of the attack, which occurred shortly before the Coptic Christmas celebrated on 7 January.
And on Friday evening, a collective funeral was held in a church in Helwan while Coptic Pope Tawadros II assured in a message of condolence that Egypt “remains strong and able to defeat the dark forces”.
France has condemned an “act of hate” and renewed its “support in the fight against terrorism,” according to the Foreign Ministry.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Gulf countries allied with Egypt, condemned the attack and supported Egypt.
Just like Qatar, with which Cairo broke its relations in June on the grounds that this emirate of the Gulf supports the “terrorism”. In its message of condolences, Doha assured of its “strong rejection of terrorism”.
For the past year, dozens of Christians, mostly Copts, have been killed in attacks on churches or targeted attacks in the Sinai Peninsula (east) and elsewhere in the country.
On December 11, 2016 in Cairo, a suicide bombing claimed by the IS against the Coptic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul had killed 29 people.
In April, 45 people were killed in two suicide attacks claimed by the IS in full celebration of Palm Sunday in Alexandria, the second largest city in the country, and Tanta (north).
It was as a result of this double attack that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi declared a state of emergency, still in force.
ISIS then threatened to carry out further attacks against the Coptic community.
And in May, the jihadist group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Coptic pilgrim bus that killed 28 people, including several children, in the central province of Minya.
The Copts, for the vast majority Orthodox, constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East and one of the oldest.
They represent 10% of the approximately 96 million inhabitants of Egypt and are present throughout the country, with higher concentrations in Middle Egypt (center). They are poorly represented in the government and claim to be marginalized.
Since 2013 and the dismissal by the army of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, jihadist groups including the Egyptian branch of the IS attack security forces mainly in northern Sinai.
Many police and soldiers, as well as civilians, were killed in these attacks. But the local branch of ISIS has also attacked civilians, including Christians, in Sinai and elsewhere in the country.
The IS is also suspected of being behind an attack that killed more than 230 people at a mosque in Sinai on November 24, the deadliest attack in the country’s recent history.