A police officer was killed and two officers were injured on Saturday night as they attempted to defuse a bomb planted near a Cairo church.
Police Major Mostafa Ebeid was killed at 10 pm on Saturday as he was attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device found eight meters away from the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Mercurius in the Ezbet al-Haggana district of Nasr City in east Cairo, Coptic Orthodox Church spokesperson Boulos Halim told Mada Masr.
Barsoum Saadallah, a priest at the church, told Mada Masr that a sheikh at the neighboring mosque informed church security about the possibility of explosive devices being placed on the roof of the mosque. Police forces later discovered four IEDs, one of which exploded while it was being defused, killing Ebeid and injuring two other police officers, according to Saadallah.
The attack comes two days before Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7 by Egypt’s minority Coptic Christian population. Copts face widespread discrimination and attacks, and churches have been common targets of militant operations in recent years.
In April of last year, synchronized attacks targeted two churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, killing over 40 people. On December 11, 2016, another deadly attack on a church adjacent to Egypt’s main Coptic cathedral killed 25 and injured dozens.
Both attacks were claimed by the Province of Sinai, Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate and the most active militant group in the country.