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A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire Friday outside a church in a Cairo suburb and at a nearby store, sparking a shootout that killed at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, authorities said.

A gunman opened fire outside a Coptic church before he was shot dead himself, the officials said.

Including the dead attacker, at least three people were involved in the terrorist squad.

One attacker carrying explosives was reportedly shot and killed by security forces and another was arrested.

A video circulated on social media after the attack apparently shows the gunman lying on the ground. "We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out".

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Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bomb attacks on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral last December that killed 28 people.

Security forces went on high alert for Christmas and New Year celebrations. The demonstrators destroyed the church's fittings and assaulted Christians inside before security personnel arrived and dispersed them.

During a Palm Sunday service in April more than 40 people were killed and many more injured by bomb attacks in two separate cities and in May almost 30 people were killed when gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery.

The local IS affiliate has claimed responsibility for all the bombings targeting Christians. A Muslim mob stabs 27-year old Coptic Christian Fam Khalaf to death in the southern City of Minya over a personal feud.

Smartphone users have begun posting footage of the attack online.