Helwan: Gunman launches deadly attack on Marmina Church

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At least three people have reportedly been killed after an attack on a church south of Cairo, according to reports.

A second attacker has been captured according to state media.

Two police officers were among those killed, reports said.

Police protection for Coptic churches has increased ahead of Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

The attack began when gunmen on a motorcycle started firing outside the Mar Mina church in the Helwan neighborhood south of central Cairo, while some worshipers were inside. Egypt's Interior Ministry referred to only one, but the Coptic Orthodox church mentioned "gunmen".

Security officials said the exchange of fire also injured five other people, including two women who are in a serious condition.

The Times notes another incident was reported on Friday involving a gun attack in Helwan at an appliance shop owned by a Copt. "We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out". "There was more than one attacker", Mohammed Hussein Abdelhadi, who lives close to the church, told Reuters. Another three soldiers were killed in an attack in Beni Suef.

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.