Man arrested after 11 killed in attack on church near Cairo

A gunman opens fire on a Christian-owned shop and a Coptic church near Cairo, killing 11 people before he's wounded and arrested, the Interior Ministry and church officials say.

Alleged gunman wounded, earlier reports said 2 gunmen were involved

A police tape cordon is seen at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo on Friday where a gunman opened fire. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

A gunman opened fire on a Christian-owned shop and a Coptic church near Cairo on Friday, killing 11 people before he was wounded and arrested, the Interior Ministry and church officials said.

The attacker struck worshippers and Egyptian security forces at the entrance to the Mar Mina church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan and tried to throw an explosive device, according to the ministry.

Nine people were killed, including a policeman and a woman who later died from her wounds, according to Interior Ministry and Coptic Church accounts.  

Two others were killed when the attacker shot at a Christian-owned shop four kilometres away before proceeding to the church.

Earlier reports by security sources and state media said at least two attackers were involved, and that one was shot dead and another fled the scene. The Interior Ministry did not explain the reason for the different accounts. 

It said forces had "immediately dealt with the [alleged attacker] and arrested him after he was wounded." It added, "Legal measures have been taken," without elaborating. 

The Health Ministry said earlier that five people had been wounded, including two women who were in serious condition.

It said investigators had identified the gunman and that he allegedly had carried out several attacks since last year.

The general prosecutor said in a statement that an investigation has been launched. 

A witness who did not want to give his name said a police officer was killed while he was closing the church gate to stop the gunman from getting in. 

Security stepped up

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bomb attacks on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral last December that killed 25 people.

The church was being guarded by police in the run-up to Orthodox Christmas celebrations next week. 

Police have stepped up security measures around churches ahead of the Coptic Christmas celebrations on Jan. 7, deploying officers outside Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the bigger churches. 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his condolences to the families and ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, his office said in a statement.