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Update: Attack on Helwan church and store kills 10

Attacks on Mar Mina Church and a Coptic-owned store in Cairo’s southern Helwan neighborhood after Coptic prayers on Friday morning killed at least 10 people and injured several others.

On Friday evening, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the church.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry identified the perpetrator as 33-year-old window-repair worker Ibrahim Ismail Mostafa. The ministry’s statement said Mostafa, who was injured and arrested after the attacks, was one of the area’s most dangerous terrorists, stating that he had carried out operations in Helwan, Beni Suef and Giza.

The ministry said he was apprehended with a machine gun and hand grenade in his possession.

It held Mostafa responsible for attacking a coffee shop in Ayat, Giza, on December 23, due to his conviction that board games are religiously forbidden. That attack killed three people. It also accused him of attacking a toll station in Beni Suef on Thursday night, killing three employees.

The statement said that the Supreme State Security Prosecution is handling the investigations.

On Friday morning, the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement announcing that the church attack killed five Coptic citizens and one policeman. According to the statement, a second attack was carried out on a Coptic-owned home supplies store in Helwan on Friday, killing two of the owner’s sons.

The Health Ministry put the death toll of both attacks at 10, including one policeman. The ministry said in a statement that five others, including a second policeman, were injured.

Ishaq Ghaly, head of security for Helwan and Maasara churches, told Mada Masr that security forces arrested the perpetrator of the church attack, denying earlier reports that he had been killed.

According to Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher on religious freedoms at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights who was present at the scene of the attack, the church attach was drive-by shooting from a motorcycle, and it killed the policeman guarding the church and at least four civilians.

A security source told Mada Masr that the church’s cameras showed the perpetrator in possession of hand grenades.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi offered his condolences to the families of the victims in a statement on Friday, asserting that “desperate terrorist attempts will not weaken the resolve of Egyptians and their solid national unity.”

The attack came amid heavy security measures imposed around churches for the occasion of Christmas, as declared by the Ministry of Interior.

On December 11 last year a deadly attack on a church adjacent to Egypt’s main Coptic cathedral left 25 dead and others injured.

Province of Sinai, Egypt’s most active militant group, vowed to continue to target Copts after claiming last December’s attack. The group followed through on its warning with systematic attacks on Copts in North Sinai displacing hundreds of families in February.

In April this year, synchronized attacks targeted two churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, killing over 40 people.

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