9 dead after gunmen attack Egypt church in terror attack

At least nine people are dead after two gunmen attacked the Mari Mina Church in Egypt’s capital on Friday, authorities said.

Security officials inspect the damage at Mar Mina church following an attempted attack on the church in Cairo on Friday. At least five people were killed in gunfight after two assailants attempted to storm Mar Mina church in the working-class suburb of Helwan. Photo by Mohamed Hossam/EPA-EFE
Security officials inspect the damage at Mar Mina church following an attempted attack on the church in Cairo on Friday. At least five people were killed in gunfight after two assailants attempted to storm Mar Mina church in the working-class suburb of Helwan. Photo by Mohamed Hossam/EPA-EFE

The attack occurred in the Helwan district — a city on the southern outskirts of Cairo, east of the Nile River.

Egyptian authorities are calling the attack a foiled attempt — as they say the gunmen had explosives that could have made the attack even deadlier.

Among those killed were eight Christians and a Muslim, officials said. One gunman was shot and killed by police but the other fled the scene. He was later arrested in possession of a machine gun, ammunition and a bomb, Ahram Online reported.

The church attack is part of a “ongoing crisis” in Egypt, said Omar Ashour, a professor of security studies at the Doha Institute.

“It’s more continuity than change, we still need more details to come up, but so far Egypt has witnessed over 2,000 attacks in the last three years,” he told Al Jazeera. “There are two issues one is the political crisis in Egypt which unfolded after 2013. That has not been resolved, and it’s creating more and more recruitment and radicalization to armed groups of various forms.”

“There is also basically a series of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism blunders which the Egyptian forces have been committing, and that is adding more and more oil to the fire.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State terror group has often targeted coptic orthodox churches in Egypt.

Last month, more than 300 people died in a gun and bomb attack at a mosque on the Sinai Peninsula.

By Sara Shayanian