Egypt police kills 3 jihadists behind anti-Coptic attacks

CAIRO — Egypt’s interior ministry said Thursday its forces had killed three jihadists suspected of involvement in deadly attacks against the country’s Coptic Christian minority.

An officer also died in a shootout in the southern province of Qena on Tuesday, security officials said.

Egypt is battling a local affiliate of the Islamic State terror group, which has claimed attacks that have killed more than 100 Copts since December.

The shootout occurred after a suspected jihadist, who had previously been detained, guided police to an alleged hideout in Qena, the ministry said in a statement.

“As soon as the security forces reached the location, the terrorist elements suddenly opened fire using all types of weapons, which forced them to retaliate,” it said.

The shootout led to the killing of the detained suspect, a policeman who was guarding him, and two other suspected jihadists, the ministry said.

At the hideout, police found weapons and “gold jewellery which was probably stolen from some of the Christian victims” of a previous attack.

A general view shows people looking at the aftermath following a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo, on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

On May 26, masked gunmen killed 29 Copts as they travelled in a bus to Saint Samuel monastery in Minya province south of the Egyptian capital.

The bus attack followed two suicide bombings of churches in April that killed 45 Copts. In December, a suicide bomber struck a church in Cairo, killing 29 Copts.

Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90-million population.

Egypt’s IS affiliate is based in northern Sinai, where hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed in attacks since the military’s ouster in 2013 of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

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