Cairo church attack suspect charged with murder

Egypt has filed murder charges against the suspect involved in the attack on a Coptic church and a Christian-owned store in Cairo on Dec. 29 which left 11 people dead, according to judicial sources.

(REUTERS / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)People gather at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt. December 29, 2017.

The suspect, who was taken into custody and treated for the injuries he had sustained in the encounter with authorities outside the Coptic Church, was reportedly detained pending the investigations. A judicial source said the public prosecutor has already charged him with "premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed weapon and using it for terrorist activity," Reuters detailed.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the latest church attack in Egypt. However, the terror group has not given evidence to back up its claim.

Meanwhile, Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, previously said that the planned Coptic Christmas celebrations would not be cancelled despite the recent attack at the Mar Mina Church in Helwan district. He then told Al-Masry Al-Youm that special Christmas sermons would be delivered in the Cathedral of Christ's Nativity, The Egypt Independent relayed.

In the wake of the deadly attack, a number of churches in Cairo and nearby areas have stepped up security measures around churches. Authorities also instructed them to put up metal detectors and surveillance cameras as part of those measures.

Worshippers have also been instructed to comply with the security inspections without exception and to show their identification to authorities. Expenses for the metal detector gates and cameras were reportedly shouldered by the churches.

Ahead of the New Year and Christmas celebrations, security troops were dispatched not only to church areas but to tourist attractions as well. Bomb squads and sniffer dogs were also deployed to the said areas.

Even prior to the attack, the Interior Minister had announced a security alert in preparation for the holiday celebrations. There were around 230,000 police officers from various sectors who took part in the plan to protect the more than 2,000 churches all over Egypt.