Nine people are dead after Christians leaving a church service in Egypt were gunned down by extremists.
At least two assailants appear to have opened fire on worshippers as they left the Mar Mina Church in Helwan district on the morning of 29 December. Prior to arriving at the church, at least one of the church attackers first fired on a Coptic-owned appliance shop, killing two sons of the owner.
They then made their way to the church.
The attack appears to have begun ten minutes after the service ended and when people were streaming out of the door of the church.
“The two masked gunmen stopped their motorcycle in Mostafa Fahmy Street, one of them carrying an automatic weapon, wearing a protective jacket, and there was a bag on his shoulder,” said Girgis Nady, a member of the congregation. He described how one of the men got off the motorbike, approached the security guards outside the church and opened fire.
The gunman tried to enter the church, but people inside closed the door. “If this terrorist had been able to enter the church, the number of the victims would have been hundreds,” said Girgis.
Even so, the attacker broke the glass in the door and began shooting through it. Another armed man then arrived on another motorcycle and started firing towards the church. Police then began exchanging fire with the attackers, injuring one. The other fled on his motorcycle, he said.
Eight Christians were killed in the attack. Six of them – Wadih Al-Qomes Markos Boutros, Emad Abdel Shahid, Safaa Abdel Shahid, Evelyn Shukrallah Atallah, Wagid Ishaq Ghobrial and Nermin Sadiq Souss – were killed outside Mar Mina church, while Romany and Atef Shaker Roshdy were killed at their father’s homeware shop. Redad Abdel Rohman, a Muslim police officer guarding the church, was also later named as one of the dead.
Four others were injured in the two attacks, including another security officer. All are in hospital, with one in a critical condition.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed its ‘soldiers’ carried out the church attack.
In the days following this attack, there has been another attack - this time killing two brothers helping a Coptic Christian stock his shop in Giza, Greater Cairo.
'Wipe them out'
Egypt is No. 21 on the current Open Doors World Watch List. Christians make up about 10 percent of the population. They live in a deeply polarised society, caught between secular nationalists and radical Islamists. In recent years scores of churches in Egypt have been attacked and burned. IS has vowed to ‘wipe them out’.
There was minimal security presence at Mar Mina on 29 December, according to Fr. Baouls Younan, a priest at the church.
“It is a small church and the number of the policemen who were assigned to guard the church was very few, and it was very easy for them to attack them and control the situation,” Younan told World Watch Monitor. “They knew the entrances and exits of the church very well. First they attacked the shop, to make the police busy by this incident, and to carry out their attack on the church easily.”
You can help
Please invite your MP to attend the launch of the 2018 World Watch List in Parliament. One of our key speakers at that event is an expert on persecution in Egypt. The new World Watch rankings will be officially released on 10 January.
- For protection for Egypt’s Christians, especially on 7 January, when the Coptic church celebrates Christmas.
- That Egypt’s government will ensure Christians are treated with justice and respect throughout the country.
- For the families of those killed in this attack: that God would strengthen and comfort them.