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Coptic Pope Tawadros extends sincere condolences to victims of Egypt church attack

Ahram Online , Friday 29 Dec 2017
helwan church
A priest reacts at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)
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Pope Tawadros II extended his sincere condolences to the victims of a terrorist attack on a church on Friday, describing “the treachery and cowardliness of the evils that were the reason for this painful incident," state-run news agency MENA reported on Friday.

Two unidentified gunmen killed nine people when they opened fire on a church in Helwan, just south of Cairo, on Friday morning, according to state TV and the health ministry.

Security forces shot dead one of the terrorists in an exchange of fire outside the church of Mar Mina, while the other assailant was arrested, state TV said.

Eight bodies have arrived at the Lady Virgin Church in Helwan archbishopric, where the funeral services will be held, MENA reported.

"All condolences to their families and to the police, the church and to Egypt, which will still be strong and capable of defeating insensitive and dark and violence forces which have no conscience,” the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church said.

The pope added that he is praying for all the martyrs and those injured, and to save the country and its people.

The Coptic Orthodox Church said that the funeral of those killed in the attack will be at 7pm on Friday at the Lady Virgin Church, MENA reported.

The victims will be buried in the Bishop Barsoum cemetery in the 15 May district of Cairo.

Health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed told state television that nine people — including a Muslim and eight Christians — had been killed, in addition to the gunman, and five injured. Those wounded include two women in critical condition, he added.

State TV aired footage of the assailant's body, showing a bearded man wearing an explosive vest lying on the ground as crowds gathered.

The interior ministry said in a statement in the afternoon that it arrested an attacker on a motorcycle who attempted to drive through security forces outside the church armed with a machine gun, ammunition and a bomb that he intended to detonate in the church.

The ministry said he killed two people when he opened fire on a shop before heading to the church where he shot dead seven people, including a policeman.

The arrested attacker is an active terrorist who has carried out a number of terrorist attacks targeting police and civilians, the statement added.

Cairo's security chief and a number of security officials visited the scene of the attack earlier Friday.

Friday's attack took place as Egyptian Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of the country's 93 million population, make preparations to celebrate Christmas on 7 January.

Dozens of Christians have been killed in several terrorist attacks on churches and congregations in recent years.

The interior ministry has beefed up security around churches to secure celebrations.

Police have deployed 230,000 policemen to guard churches, parks, and vital institutions during the holiday season.

The ministry has cordoned off streets around churches and installed metal detectors at some larger churches.

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