By Jay Deshmukh (AFP) –
Cairo — Gunmen on a motorbike shot dead three people late Sunday, including an eight-year-old girl, as they fired on a group outside a Coptic Christian church in Cairo, Egypt's interior ministry said.
The attack was the first such assault targeting Christians in the Egyptian capital since the military coup that ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
It targeted a group of people who had emerged from the church in north Cairo's Al-Warak neighbourhood after attending a wedding, the ministry said.
It said an eight-year-old girl, a woman and a man were killed and nine others were wounded in the attack.
"There were two men on a motorbike and one of them opened fire," said the interior ministry.
A health ministry official confirmed three people had been killed but said 12 people had in fact been wounded.
Ahmed al-Ansari from the health ministry told AFP that four of the 12 were in a critical condition, adding the number of wounded could rise.
Egyptian Christians, the majority of whom are Copts, have been targeted since the ouster of Morsi and in particular since an August 14 crackdown by security forces on two Cairo camps of Morsi's Islamist supporters.
Islamists were enraged by the deadly crackdown and they accuse Coptic Christians of backing the coup that toppled Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and was Egypt's first democratically elected president.
This perception was fuelled by the appearance of Coptic Pope Tawadros II alongside army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he announced on television Morsi's removal from office. Muslim leaders and other politicians were also present.
Rights groups say that Copts, who account for six to 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, have come under attack mainly in the provinces of Minya and Assiut in central Egypt.
On October 9 London-based Amnesty International said that more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged across the country since the August 14 crackdown against Morsi supporters in Cairo.
In its report Amnesty International blamed Egyptian security forces for failing to stop "revenge attacks" against Coptic Christians after the Cairo crackdown.
?In light of previous attacks, particularly since Morsi?s ousting on 3 July, a backlash against Coptic Christians should have been anticipated, yet security forces failed to prevent attacks or intervene to put an end to the violence,? the rights group said.
Egypt's Copts have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation, particularly under Morsi's one-year rule.
Egypt's new army-installed government is engaged in a widespread crackdown on Islamists, jailing more than 2,000 since the pro-Morsi camps were stormed in August.
Morsi himself is in custody and is to go on trial on November 4 over deadly clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
Most of the Brotherhood's leaders including its supreme guide Mohammed Badie are also in custody.
An Egyptian court last month banned the Muslim Brotherhood from operating and seized its assets.