Helwan: Gunman launches deadly attack on Marmina Church

Police inspect the site of an attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo Egypt

Days ahead of New Year's Eve, Egypt witnessed a deadly attack on the Coptic church of the Great Martyr Mina in Helwan, Cairo suburbs, during Christmas ceremonies on Friday. A suicide vest or explosive belt was found on the dead attacker, indicating a far more devastating atrocity was planned.

Hours before the church attack, the Egyptian army announced that six soldiers and three gunmen had been killed in two separate incidents in North Sinai.

A second attacker has been captured according to state media. At least nine people were killed, an official said, in the latest violence targeting Egypt's Christian minority.

The spokesman for Egypt's Health Ministry, Khaled Megahed, said eight Coptic Christians and a policeman were killed in the attack, the Associated Press reported. It was not clear how many assailants were involved.

Police tape cordon is seen at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017.

Two police officers are thought to be among the dead.

Cellphone footage posted on social media appeared to show gunman barely conscious, as people restrained his arms and then handcuffed him.

Investigators have identified the gunman, it said, adding that he had carried out several attacks since past year. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also offered his condolences to the families and ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, his office said in a statement. Authorities have closed off the area around the church.

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