At least 10 people are dead — including churchgoers and policemen who were guarding the church — and 10 more are wounded after terrorists attacked the St. Mina Coptic Church in Helwan south of Cairo today:
#BREAKING Egypt church attack death toll rises to 10: health official
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 29, 2017
There are reports of a second attack on a Christian-owned business in Helwan that killed two, according to the Coptic Church. The dead range in age from 43 to 90.
Security forces were already on alert for possible attacks on churches and other Christian sites around Egypt in the approach to the January 7 celebration of Christmas per the Coptic Orthodox calendar.
According to local reports, gunmen on a motorcycle drove up to the security checkpoint at the St. Mina Church and opened fire. Two policemen were killed. Police reportedly defused two IEDs at the scene.
Video of the attack shows locals defending the church with a policeman injured or dead at his post. One of the gunmen appears later in the video (~1:30):
— Amr Elqazaz (@amrsalama) December 29, 2017
One of the gunmen was shot and killed, and the other was captured. Video shows one of the gunmen shot and severely injured.
As a security precaution, the other churches in Helwan were closed.
This attack comes just a week after hundreds of locals stormed and ransacked a Coptic church in a village in the Giza Governorate in response to rumors that the church was going to install a bell — a violation of Islamic law.
It has been a bloody year for Egypt’s Coptic Christian community.
Last December during an Advent service, a suicide bomber ran into the Two Saints Church just yards from the Coptic cathedral in Cairo. He detonated his bomb in the women’s section of the church, leaving 29 dead — all but one women and girls.
ISIS claimed credit for the Two Saints Church bombing. The suspect had previously been arrested as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Back in May, I reported here at PJ Media on my visit to the Two Saints Church as it was still being restored:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) May 9, 2017
As I reported back in October, a Coptic priest from Upper Egypt who was in Cairo raising donations for was murdered in broad daylight.
Just hours before the beginning of Ramadan this year, a busload of Coptic pilgrims headed towards a desert monastery were stopped by gunmen and summarily executed. The gunmen killed 31, including children.
Two suicide bombers struck churches in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday, killing 49. The bombing in Alexandria targeted the church where Pope Tawadros was leading mass, but the bomber was stopped outside the church where he detonated his bomb. Most of the Interior Ministry security team were killed.
After those attacks, churches in the Minya province in Upper Egypt were closed for Easter — only the second time services had not been held in the region for more than a thousand years.
Most of the Coptic population in the Sinai peninsula fled their homes and businesses earlier this year as a series of attacks and murders by the area’s Islamic State affiliate targeted the Coptic community.
Christian church services have been targeted by mobs in Minya in Upper Egypt, where many of the millions of Coptic Christians live. Bombs were also found in churches around Cairo.
Egyptian security officials have stopped several mass attacks targeting churches and monasteries, including a planned attack on a monastery near Assuit, and a raid on a terror compound near Faiyum where more than a dozen security officials were killed.
Egypt is still reeling from an attack on a Sinai mosque last month that left hundreds dead.
The Coptic community in Egypt is not only the largest Christian community in the Middle East, but represents more than half of the Christian population in the region.
Dozens of Coptic churches throughout Egypt were targeted by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in August 2013 after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.
Churches attacked in that wave of violence included those in Helwan. The local Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Helwan openly encouraged attacks on the churches on its Facebook page:
— PJ Media (@PJMedia_com) August 14, 2016