CAIRO – Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on an Egyptian church that left a police officer and six civilians dead.
A team “belonging to Islamic State carried out an attack against Mar Mina Church in Helwan, south of Cairo,” the IS-linked Amaq news agency said.
Egypt’s interior ministry said earlier that the shooting at the church was the work of a single assailant riding a motorcycle.
Prior to targeting the church, the same attacker fatally shot two people at a nearby shop, the ministry said.
Members of the security detail assigned to Mar Mina detained the attacker, confiscating an assault weapon, five ammunition cartridges and an explosive device.
“The terrorist was shooting as he sought to cross the security cordon in order to detonate the explosive device close to the church with the aim of causing the maximum number of casualties,” the interior ministry said.
Four other people, including a police officer, were wounded in the violence in Helwan, a working-class suburb of the capital.
Attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian churches have been on the rise over the last 12 months.
More than 40 people were killed in coordinated bombings of two churches in northern Egypt on Palm Sunday.
In December 2016, at least 29 people were killed and 47 others injured in a suicide attack on the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in the al-Abbassia neighborhood in Cairo.
Egypt has reinforced security around churches ahead of Coptic Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 7.