Egyptian policeman killed in shootout with armed gunmen
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Egyptian policeman killed in shootout with armed gunmen

Cell was allegedly planning to attack Coptic Christians in Cairo during Easter celebrations

In this file photo, a policeman stands guard in front of Mar Mina Coptic church, December 20, 2017 after a deadly attack claimed by the Islamic State group, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
In this file photo, a policeman stands guard in front of Mar Mina Coptic church, December 20, 2017 after a deadly attack claimed by the Islamic State group, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

An Egyptian policeman was killed and three others wounded in a shootout Tuesday with armed gunmen in Cairo, the interior ministry said in a statement.

A “terrorist cell” was intending to attack Christians in southern and eastern Cairo during their Easter celebrations, the statement said.

Coptic Orthodox Christians, who make up around 10-15 percent of Egypt’s 100 million population, celebrate Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The ministry said the cell was “neutralized” with seven militants killed.

Six rifles and a cache of ammunition were recovered from the scene and other weapons that were “to be used in their terror plan” were found in a nearby warehouse.

Private television channel CBC Extra News showed footage of the gunfire, as residents of Al-Amiriyah suburb were warned to stay inside their homes away from windows and doors.

The shootout lasted several hours, going beyond the 8:00 pm start of the nighttime curfew imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, a security source told AFP.

Security forces have been battling a long-running insurgency mainly in the Sinai Peninsula in northeast Egypt, spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

Since February 2018,  more than 845 suspected militants have been killed in North Sinai province along with more than 60 security personnel, according to official figures.

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