2 Coptic Christians Killed by Gunman in Egypt Days After Cairo Church Attack

Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Coptic Christians in Egypt. | (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Just days after 11 people were killed during an attack targeting Christians in Cairo, two more Coptic Christians were killed by a gunman in Egypt on New Year's morning in Cairo's twin city.

Egyptian security officials confirmed the killing of two Christian brothers, who were slain during an attack on their friend's liquor store in the town of Giza.

According to sources who spoke with AFP, the gunman was masked and on the back of a motorcycle taxi when he began firing on the liquor store at around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

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Reuters reports that the weapon of choice was a rifle. At the time of the attack, the sources said that there were still New Year's celebrators walking along the street.

The motive for the attack has not yet been made clear and there was no immediate claim of responsibility, which typically occurs after larger attacks on religious minorities in the region. The gunman is still at large.

The Egypt Independent reports that the two victims are named Ashraf and Adel Azar, who own a parts store located near the liquor store. The two were in the liquor store at the time of the incident to help the store's owner, Raouf, transfer boxes of liquor from his vehicle into the store. The store's owner survived the incident.

Although local residents tried to help the shooting victims, the men died on their way to a hospital.

The liquor store attack comes as 11 people lost their lives last Friday when a masked gunman opened fire at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Menas in Cairo and a nearby shop owned by a Coptic Christian businessman. Ten citizens and one police officer were killed.

According to The Sunday Times, the liquor store killing bears a resemblance to the attack on the Cairo church and nearby Christian shop in the fact that it involved two gunmen who opened fire on a motorcycle.

The Dec. 29 attack was claimed by the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency.

Authorities have charged the gunman who carried out the church attack with murder. The gunman is receiving medical treatment for the wounds he suffered in the exchange with security officials.

"He is accused of premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed weapon and using it for terrorist activity," a source told Reuters.

Egypt currently ranks as the 21st-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List. However, there is a good possibility that Egypt could rank higher on the 2018 World Watch List that will be released this month considering the increase in the terror-related deaths of Egyptian Christians in 2017.

In the past year, there have been a number of egregious attacks on the Coptic Christian community.

In May, at least 28 Christians were killed when a bus carrying them to a monastery south of Cairo was targeted by gunmen.

On Palm Sunday in April, two churches in Tanta and Alexandria were attacked by suicide bombers. A total of 47 people were killed in those acts of violence.

The Palm Sunday bombings came after St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Cairo was bombed in December 2016, killing 29 worshipers and injuring at least 47.

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