CAIRO • A policeman was killed while trying to dismantle an explosive device outside a Coptic church in Egypt, a security source said.
Two other officers were also wounded in the explosion last Saturday as security personnel attempted to defuse the device in Nasr City, on the edge of Cairo, the source added. The device had been hidden inside a bag that was searched by police. The policeman who was killed, Mr Mustafa Abid, was a specialist in mine clearance.
Coptic Christians, who account for around 10 per cent of Egypt's population, have been targeted in a string of attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in recent years.
The latest attack comes ahead of Christmas mass yesterday, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is due to inaugurate the Cathedral of Nativity in Egypt's New Administrative Capital, 4km east of Cairo. Security has been reinforced in the capital in recent weeks ahead of Christmas, which Egypt's minority Coptic Christians celebrate today.
The country's leader since 2014, Mr Sisi often presents himself as a defender of Christians against extremists. But activists and some analysts accuse the state of discriminating against them and not providing enough protection.
More than 100 Copts have been killed in militant attacks since December 2016.
ISIS claimed an assault in early November which killed six Copts and one Anglican in the central province of Minya. The police later said that 19 suspected extremist militants linked to the attack had been killed in a shoot-out.
ISIS also killed more than 40 people in twin church bombings in April 2017, and an ISIS gunman in December that year killed nine people in an attack on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
Hundreds of police and soldiers have also been killed in attacks, and three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died recently when a home-made bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo.
The country has been under a state of emergency since April 2017.