29 DECEMBER 2017 – A gunman opened fire outside a Coptic church south of Cairo, killing at least nine people and wounding at least five others before being shot dead by police.

The incident took place at the Mar Mina church in the Helwan district on the capital’s southern outskirts, according to Egypt’s health ministry. The state-run MENA news agency cited an unnamed official at the interior ministry as saying a second assailant had fled the scene.

At least one police officer was among those killed in the attack, local media reported.

Mobile phone footage posted on social media appeared to show a man wearing a bulky ammunition vest sprawled on a street as people restrained and then handcuffed him.

The Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt has killed dozens of Christians in church bombings and shootings over the past year, and has threatened further attacks.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up about 10% of the country’s 93 million people, and are the largest religious minority in the region.

The IS claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a Cairo church in December 2016 and attacks on two churches north of the capital in April. A month later, IS gunmen shot dead about 30 Christians south of Cairo as they travelled to a monastery.

The jihadis are also believed to have carried out a massacre of Muslim worshippers in Sinai last month, killing more than 300 in an attack on a mosque associated with the Sufi strand of Islam, which the IS views as heretical.

Egypt imposed a state of emergency following the church attacks and shootings, and the country’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, demanded the army use brutal force against Isis following the mosque massacre.

The group has killed hundreds of police and soldiers during its insurgency, which it is fighting from its base on the Sinai peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip. As security forces have become more difficult to target, it has increasingly attacked civilians instead.

The latest attack comes a day after six Egyptian soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Sinai. The IS also claimed responsibility last week for firing an anti-tank missile at a helicopter at an airport in northern Sinai as the defence and interior ministers were visiting. An aide to the defence minister and a helicopter pilot were killed in the attack.