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7 killed at Egypt church after Mass

Associated Press / January 7, 2010

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CAIRO - Three men in a car sprayed automatic gunfire into a crowd of churchgoers in southern Egypt as they left a midnight Mass for Coptic Christmas, killing at least seven people, the church bishop and security officials said.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the attack yesterday just before midnight was suspected as retaliation for the November rape of a Muslim girl by a Christian man in the same town. The statement said witnesses have identified the lead attacker.

The attack took place in the town of Nag Hamadi in Qena province, about 40 miles from the famous ancient ruins of Luxor. A local security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that seven were dead and three seriously wounded.

Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hamadi Diocese told the Associated Press six male churchgoers and one security guard were killed. He said he had left St. John’s church minutes before the attack.

The bishop said he was concerned about violence on the eve of Coptic Christmas, which falls today, because of previous threats after the rape of the 12-year-old girl in November.