Amir condoles over attacks in Egypt – 11 killed

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Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve during the funeral service of victims of the attack on Mar Mina Church in Cairo, Egypt on Dec 29. At least 11 people, including eight Coptic Christians, were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire outside the church in a south Cairo suburb, Egypt’s Health Ministry spokesman said Friday. (AP)

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 30, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Friday sent a cable of condolences to Egyptian President Abdelfatah el-Sisi over the victims of two “terrorist” attacks in North Sinai and Cairo.

In the cable, His Highness the Amir said the two terrorist acts, which targeted a military vehicle and a church and left a number of soldiers and civilians dead or wounded, run counter to all heavenly religions and human values, target innocents and disrupt security and stability. His Highness the Amir reiterated that Kuwait stands by Egypt and supports all measures it is taking to safeguard its security and stability, wishing the swift recovery of those injured in the attacks.

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent the Egyptian president two cables of similar sentiments. Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to his Egyptian counterpart Sedqi Sobhi over the victims of the two terrorist attacks on a church.

In the cable, the Kuwaiti minister condemned strongly the two acts which took place earlier in the day. The two terrorist acts run counter to all religions and humanitarian values as it targeted innocent civilians, and destabilize stability and security of Egypt, a sisterly country, the ministry’s Directorate of Moral Guidance and Public Relations said in a press statement.

Sheikh Nasser stressed that Kuwait stands by Egypt and supports all measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to maintain the country’s stability and security, the statement added. He prayed to Allah the Almighty to bless the souls of the victims, and to bring solace to their families, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

Speaker of National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim also sent a cable of condolences to his Egyptian counterpart Ali Abdel Aal on Friday over attack. In the cable, Al-Ghanim stressed his strong denunciation of all terrorist acts, which target security and stability of Egypt. He affirmed his full solidarity with the Egyptian people and support for all measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to maintain the country’s stability and security.

A gunman killed at least 11 people on Friday in attacks on a Coptic Orthodox Church and a Christianowned shop near Cairo before he was wounded and arrested, the Egyptian interior ministry and church officials said. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, in a statement carried out by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the claim. 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 and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people. Earlier reports by security sources and state media said at least two attackers were involved in Friday’s attack, and that one was shot dead and another fled the scene. The interior ministry did not explain the reason for the different accounts. The Coptic Church said the gunman first shot at a Christian-owned shop 4 kms (3 miles) away, killing two people, before proceeding to the Mar Mina Church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan.

The Interior Ministry said he opened fire at the entrance to the site and tried to throw an explosive device. The gunman killed at least nine people, including a policeman, at the church, according to Interior Ministry and Coptic Church accounts.

The Church said a young woman had died later from her wounds, bringing the civilian death toll at the church to eight. The ministry said security forces had “immediately dealt with the (attacker) and arrested him after he was wounded.” It added, “Legal measures have been taken,” without elaborating. Investigators have identified the gunman, it said, adding that he had carried out several attacks since last year.

Egypt is also grappling with a deadly Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region. The health ministry said five people had been wounded, including two women who it said were in a serious condition. A joint funeral for eight of those killed was held on Friday evening at the Virgin Mary Church in Helwan. The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, led mourning for the victims.

El-Sisi also offered his condolences to the families and ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, his office said in a statement. Cairo’s state prosecutor said that an investigation had been launched into the incident. “The shooting began at 10:30 am and carried on for more than 15 minutes … There was more than one attacker,” Mohammed Hussein Abdelhadi, who lives close to the church, told Reuters. A witness who did not want to give his name said the policeman was killed while he was closing the church gate to stop the gunman getting in.

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