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Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack

By Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes
Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack
Security officials inspect the damage at the Monastery of Saint Mina following an attempted attack on the church in Cairo on Friday. At least nine people were killed in gunfight after an assailant attempted to storm the church in the working-class suburb of Helwan. Photo by Mohamed Hossam/EPA-EFE

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt's capital Friday that killed nine people.

The attack occurred in the Helwan district in a city on the southern outskirts of Cairo, east of the Nile River. A single gunman opened fire outside the Monastery of Saint Mina -- also identified as Mari Mina and Marmina church.

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Egyptian authorities are calling the attack a foiled attempt; the gunmen had explosives that could have made the attack deadlier.

The gunman, Ibrahim Ismail, 33, had "attempted to attack another church near to the Mar Mina church, but he failed and ended up shooting two people in a shop next to it," a statement from Egypt's Interior Ministry said.

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Among those killed were eight Christians and a Muslim, officials said. Among the inured were five security guards.

Officials injured and arrested Ismail. He was in possession of a machine gun, ammunition and a bomb, Ahram Online reported.

Al Arabiya reported the Islamic State militant group -- also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh -- claimed responsibility for the attack on a website.

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The church attack is part of a "ongoing crisis" in Egypt, said Omar Ashour, a professor of security studies at the Doha Institute.

"It's more continuity than change, we still need more details to come up, but so far Egypt has witnessed over 2,000 attacks in the last three years," he told Al Jazeera. "There are two issues one is the political crisis in Egypt which unfolded after 2013. That has not been resolved, and it's creating more and more recruitment and radicalization to armed groups of various forms."

"There is also basically a series of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism blunders which the Egyptian forces have been committing, and that is adding more and more oil to the fire."

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Last month, more than 300 people died in a gun and bomb attack at a mosque on the Sinai Peninsula.

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