An Egyptian court on Sunday
sentenced two men to death and eight others to between three years and life in
prison over an attack on a church and Christian-owned shop in Cairo that killed
10 people.A gunman opened fire in December 2017 on Christians in a shop
in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan, killing two people, before firing on
the entrance to the nearby Mar Mina church, where he killed seven Christian
worshippers and a policeman.The emergency state security court sentenced the main
suspect, who is in custody, and another suspect, who is on the run, to death.Two defendants were handed life sentences, four were given
four years in prison and two were handed three years in jail.
One suspect was
acquitted and two others are still at large.The authorities had said the gunman was wounded by security
forces during the attack.
ISIS claimed responsibility.The main suspect appeared in court on Sunday wearing death
row prison clothes, having also been handed two death sentences in military
trials after being convicted of attacking military buildings.The main suspect embraced the other defendants in the court
after the verdict.
Under Egypt’s state of emergency law, the defendants can
appeal to have the sentence by the security court reduced.In November, militants killed seven people when they attacked
a bus returning from a baptism in the governorate of Minya.Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of
the population, have been targeted by militants in recent years.A gunman killed at least 11 people on Dec.
29 in attacks on a
Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo before he was
wounded and arrested, the Egyptian Interior Ministry and church officials said.ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, in a statement
carried out by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the
claim.Police have stepped up security measures around churches
ahead of Coptic Christmas celebrations on Jan.
7, deploying officers outside
Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the
bigger churches.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.Earlier reports by security sources and state media said at
least two attackers were involved in Friday’s attack, and that one was shot
dead and another fled the scene.
The Interior Ministry did not explain the
reason for the different accounts.The Coptic Church said the gunman first shot at a
Christian-owned shop 4 km away, killing two people, before proceeding to the
Mar Mina church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan.
The Interior Ministry
said he opened fire at the entrance to the site and tried to throw an explosive
device.The gunman killed at least nine people, including a
policeman, at the church, according to Interior Ministry and Coptic Church accounts.
The Church said a young woman had died later from her wounds, bringing the
civilian death toll at the church to eight.The ministry said security forces had “immediately dealt with
the (attacker) and arrested him after he was wounded.” It added, “Legal
measures have been taken,” without elaborating.