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The Latest: Trump condemns attack on Coptic Christians

By The Associated Press  |  Posted Dec 29th, 2017 @ 9:53pm


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CAIRO (AP) — The Latest on Coptic church attack in Cairo (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is condemning an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt Friday.

The White House says Trump spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi after the attack by a gunman in Helwan killed at least eight members of Egypt's long-suffering minority community as well as a police officer.

Trump "condemned the attack and reiterated that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism," the White House says in a statement. "President Trump emphasized his commitment to strengthening efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in all their forms."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump has promised to make protecting beleaguered Christian communities overseas a priority for his administration.

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11:20 p.m.

The local affiliate of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack at a Cairo church that left at least nine people dead.

The claim, which was carried by the group's Aamaq news agency, said Friday's attack was carried out by a "security detail" and that one of its men was "martyred" in it.

A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire outside the church and at a nearby store, sparking a shootout that killed at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, in the latest attack targeting the country's embattled Christian minority.

The gunman was also killed, along with at least one police officer, officials said.

The attack came amid tightened security around churches and Christian facilities ahead of the Coptic Orthodox Christian celebrations of Christmas on Jan. 7. Police have been stationed outside churches and in nearby streets across Cairo. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has personally chaired meetings with his top security chiefs in recent days to discuss security during New Year's Eve and the Orthodox Christmas.

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1:30

Egypt's Health Ministry spokesman says at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, have been killed in a shootout outside a south Cairo church.

Khaled Megahed says Friday's attack took place when gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire outside Mar Mina church. One gunman was shot dead as was a security officer, he said.

Egypt's state-run MENA news agency, citing an unnamed Interior Ministry official, said the other assailant fled the scene and was being pursued.

Earlier, security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said two police were killed.

The spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that at least six people were killed in the attack including five Copts and a policeman. It also said there was a separate attack on a store in the same neighborhood of Helwan that killed two Copts.

Egypt's Christian minority has been targeted by Islamic militants in a series of attacks since December 2016 that left more than 100 dead and scores wounded

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12:30 p.m.

Egyptian security officials say two policemen have been shot dead in an attack outside a church in a south Cairo suburb.

The officials said a gunman opened fire outside a Coptic church before he was shot dead himself. They say the exchange of fire also injured three other people. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Egypt's state-run MENA news agency, citing an unnamed official at the Interior Ministry, said Friday's attack in the Helwan neighborhood was carried out by two assailants; one of them fled the scene and was being chased down.

A video circulated on social media after the attack apparently shows the dead gunman on the ground. Authorities have closed off the area around the church.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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