Church shootout kills 1 militant in Egypt's Helwan

2 policemen among 3 dead in Egypt church attack

Authorities in Egypt reported at least nine people dead after two gunmen attacked a church south of the capital on Friday.

A witness who did not want to give his name said a policeman was killed while he was closing the church gate to stop the gunman getting in. One of the assailants fled the attack site and is being pursued by the security forces.

Medical and security sources said six of the dead were church-goers and three were police.

According to the Youm7 newspaper, the security forces are now trying to detain the second attacker, who left the scene riding a motorcycle.

Raouth Atta, 40, was attending prayers inside the church when the shooting took place.

Sirens were heard in central Cairo immediately after the incident. "We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out".

A video circulated on social media after the attack appeared to show the dead gunman on the ground.

Police later cordoned off the crime scene as onlookers crowded around the church, while a forensics team combed the area.

Egypt's Interior Ministry said one of the two attackers was killed.

Police have stepped up security measures around churches ahead of Coptic Christmas celebrations on January 7, deploying officers outside Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the bigger churches.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, have long complained of discrimination in the Muslim-majority nation, and say authorities have often failed to protect them from sectarian attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack.

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