Crowds attack Coptic Church in Egypt

Hundreds of Muslim demonstrators have reportedly assaulted an Egyptian Coptic Christian church south of Cairo. This marks the latest in a series of assaults on members of the country's Coptic minority.

The incident took place at the Prince Tawadros church in Giza, 100 kilometers (60 miles) outside Cairo, following Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. Demonstrators gathered outside the church building in the afternoon and stormed it, chanting hostile slogans and calling for the church's demolition.

The diocese in Atfih said in a statement that the church's contents were destroyed during the attack and that Christians worshipping at the church were assaulted before security personnel came to their aid. It also said that the wounded were transferred to a nearby hospital but didn't elaborate on numbers or the nature of their injuries.

Religious minority under attack

The church, yet to be sanctioned by the state and thereby gain full legal recognition, has been observing prayers for 15 years. Despite laws recently being eased, local authorities continue to refuse to give building permits for new churches, fearing protests by Muslim conservatives.

Egypt's Coptic Christian minority comprises about 10 percent of the country's population of 93 million people, and is the largest religious minority in the Middle East. They have been targeted by jihadist militants in a series of attacks since December 2016 leaving more than 100 dead and scores wounded. The "Islamic State" terror group has vowed to keep making Coptic Christians a main target for their attacks.

As people around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas and New Year's, Egypt says it has introduced heightened security measures.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

1997 Luxor massacre

Sixty-two tourists were killed at Egypt's Deir el-Bahri archaeological site in Luxor. Six assailants, thought to have been linked to al-Qaida, disguised themselves as members of the security forces and descended on the temple armed with automatic machine guns and knives. Egyptian tourist police and military forces eventually stopped the attackers, who were either killed or committed suicide.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2004 Sinai bombings

A series of bomb attacks targeting tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed 34 people and injured 171. Most of the casualties were killed after a truck drove into the lobby of the Taba Hilton. Two more bombs went off at campsites some 50 kilometers away, killing a handful of people. Roughly half the casualties were foreigners, including 12 Israelis.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks

The attack in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh was carried out on Egypt's Revolution Day and for a decade remained the worst Islamist attack in Egypt's history. A series of bombs planted close to bars and restaurants, as well as by a hotel, killed 88 people and injured 150. The majority of victims were locals, although a number of tourists also died, including 11 British nationals.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2006 Dahab bombings

The attack on the the Egyptian resort city of Dahab marked the third consecutive year that tourist resorts had been targeted. A series of blasts in a restaurant, a café and a market killed at least 23 people, most of whom were local, and wounded around 80. Egyptian officials maintain that the attacks were carried out by the Islamist cell known as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a forerunner of "IS."

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2015 Metrojet Flight 9268 disaster

All 224 mostly Russian passengers were killed when Metrojet Flight 9268 suddenly dropped out of the sky over the Egypt's Sinai peninsula, shortly after having taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh international airport. Authorities agree that it appeared a bomb had been snuck on board. The so-called "Islamic State" jihadi group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2016 Attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian minorities

While Egypt's Coptic Christians have for decades been targeted by Islamists, deadly attacks on Coptic churches have increased dramatically in recent months. At least 102 Egyptian Christians have been killed in four separate attacks since December 2016.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2017 Coptic church and Al-Rawda mosque bombings

On April 9, 2017, the Coptic church faith followers encountered devastating twin blasts in Tanta and Alexandria as they celebrated Palm Sunday, killing 28 and 17 people respectively. On November 24, 2017, a bomb went off outside of Al-Rawda mosque in the city of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people and injured 109 others.

ss/bk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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