Two attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt December 29 have taken the lives of at least nine.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry reported six civilians and a policeman died when a gunman tried to storm a Coptic church after carrying out an attack at a Coptic-owned shop in the same area, killing two.
The Coptic Christian minority in Egypt comprises about 10 percent of the population, and more than 100 have been killed in Egypt over the past year, the great majority of the murders attributed to ISIS.
In the wake of Friday's attacks, Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi offered condolences to family members and vowed to continue "cleansing the country of terrorism and extremism.”
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 that killed 45 and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28.
Responding to the attack, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, said that he was “deeply saddened” by the “cowardly terrorist” attack. He asked for people to pray for the bereaved families and those injured in the attack.
Bishop Mouneer also gave thanks to the national security operation and the policemen who “showed great courage in fighting the attack.” He said, “it would have been much worse if it wasn’t for our brave policemen.”
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb, a senior Muslim cleric, responded to the attack by calling on Muslims to unite with Christians for Christmas celebrations. He said, “all Egyptian people are urged to stand firm against this evil conspiracy and make these good days an opportunity to emphasize this through Muslims joining their Coptic brethren in celebrating the anniversary of Christ's birth.”