Cairo, Dec 29: At least ten people were killed in a shootout outside a church here on Friday, state media reported.
“The security forces thwarted an attack on Mar Mina Church in the Helwan district,” said an Interior Ministry statement.
The Health Ministry said the ten killed include one attacker and one policeman, who are Muslims, and eight Copts with one of them a policeman, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Interior Ministry added that at least five others were injured, with two of them being in a serious condition. It said the other attacker fled the scene on a motorbike and was later arrested.
A bomb disposal team has defused two bombs planted near the church.
TV footage showed one attacker wearing a bulky ammunition vest lying on a street.
The other attacker was later arrested carrying a bomb, 150 bullets and an automatic gun, the head of the Cairo Security Directorate said.
In a statement, the church said the eight dead Copts include five church visitors, one security man of the church and two owners of an appliance shop nearby the scene.
Eyewitnesses told Xinhua that the two masked militants on a motorcycle entered the street leading to the western side of the church, and then got off and targeted the security post outside the church. They added that the exchange of fire continued for around 20 minutes.
The attack came in the run-up to Orthodox Christmas celebrations next week. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Egypt has killed dozens of Christians in church bombings and shootings over the past year.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country’s 93 million people.