(AA) – Two policemen were killed early Tuesday in a shooting attack outside a church in Egypt’s central province of Minya, one day before the country’s Coptic Orthodox community celebrates Christmas, a security source has said.
“Masked militants opened fire on two policemen guarding the Church of the Good Shepherd in the city of Minya, killing them instantly,” the source told The Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
“The attackers fled the scene immediately after the shooting; a manhunt has been launched by the security agencies,” he added.
Police official Hisham Nasr blamed the Muslim Brotherhood group, which was labeled a “terrorist organization” by the Egyptian government in late 2013, for the attack.
“Initial investigations showed that members of the terrorist Brotherhood group are involved,” Nasr told The Anadolu Agency.
The shooting attack came only hours after a pastor survived a similar shooting attack on his car in the same province late Monday.
According to security sources, unidentified militants intercepted Pastor Gerges Zakariya in Mallawi and opened fire on his car before fleeing the scene.
No injuries, however, were reported.
Christian Copts make up between 8 and 10 percent of Egypt’s population of nearly 90 million, according to unofficial estimates.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, usually amid tight security.
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II supported the roadmap imposed by the army following the ouster in mid-2013 of Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely-elected president and a Brotherhood leader himself.
Some Christians, particularly those of Upper (southern) Egypt, have complained of repeated attacks, which they attribute to the widespread belief that Egypt’s Christian community supported Morsi’s ouster.
The Egyptian government blames the Brotherhood for a recent series of deadly explosions, mostly targeting security forces.
The Brotherhood, for its part, consistently denies the accusations and insists it is committed to peaceful activism.