3 suspected militants killed in Egypt raid

Mourners at the funeral of a victim of the Mar Mina Coptic Church attack in Cairo last Friday.
Mourners at the funeral of a victim of the Mar Mina Coptic Church attack in Cairo last Friday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

10 others nabbed in govt efforts to pre-empt attacks ahead of year-end celebrations

CAIRO • Egyptian security forces have killed three suspected militants in an exchange of gunfire at a farm they believed to be a militant hideout on the outskirts of Giza, the Interior Ministry said.

"The three killed were some of the leading figures that supervise the manufacturing of explosives and the carrying out of terrorist operations," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Security forces arrested 10 others in the provinces of Qalyoubia, north of the capital, and Fayoum, some 60km south of Cairo, confiscating a variety of explosive devices, automatic weapons, and other items.

The raids came as part of efforts by the authorities to pre-empt any attacks by militant groups ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations and clamp down on members of Hasm, a group linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, according to the statement.

Hasm, a group that emerged two years ago, has claimed several attacks on security forces, including the fatal shooting of a policeman and injuries to three others in the province.

Egypt accuses Hasm of being a militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's oldest Islamist movement which Cairo outlawed in 2013.

The Muslim Brotherhood denies this and says it strives for only peaceful political change.

The raids came as part of efforts by the authorities to pre-empt any attacks by militant groups ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations and clamp down on members of Hasm, a group linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Interior Ministry statement.

An insurgency led by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Egypt's rugged Sinai Peninsula has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the Egyptian military overthrew president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 - although no official death toll has been released.

But in recent months, attacks have increasingly moved to the mainland, targeting Coptic Christians as well as security officers, and checkpoints in and around major Egyptian cities.

A gunman killed at least 11 people last Friday in attacks on a Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo before he was wounded and arrested.

ISIS later claimed the attack at the Mar Mina Coptic Church, though it provided no evidence for the claim.

Dozens of children were at Sunday school inside the church, held on Friday morning to coincide with Egypt's weekend. They were rushed upstairs out of the range of the attacker's gunfire.

"Imagine children from kindergarten to high school, they were all still inside the church. God forbid if he (gunman) had entered the church - there would have been many more victims," said church keeper Saad Saeed.

Mr Sama'an Farag, the doorman at the church, had closed the doors swiftly upon hearing gunshots and the sound of ricocheting bullets.

"I heard that there was a paralysed man who was killed with his wife. We felt sad for him, the other people, and the policeman who was killed," Mr Farag said.

The police conscript who had stood alongside Mr Farag and the other doormen behind the massive gates was killed by gunfire.

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

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline '3 suspected militants killed in Egypt raid'. Print Edition | Subscribe