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Egypt court sentences man to death over 2017 Coptic church attack

The attack, claimed by the Islamic State, had left 10 people dead
At least 10 people were killed in the Mar Mina church attack (MEE)

An Egyptian man was sentenced to death by hanging on Sunday for a deadly attack on a Cairo church in 2017 claimed by the Islamic State group, a judicial source said.

Ten people, including a police officer, were killed when several assailants targeted the Mar Mina Coptic church in Helwan, on the southern outskirts of Cairo, on 29 December 2017.

According to the authorities, the attacker on trial was armed with an assault rifle, ammunition and a bomb he intended to detonate at the church.

A Cairo criminal court sentenced the man for "murdering nine Copts and a policeman, possessing weapons and forming a terrorist group linked to IS," the source said.

One of the attackers was reported killed on the scene. Another man, who is on the run, was sentenced to death in absentia, the source added.

Two others were sentenced in absentia to life in prison, four received 10-year terms and two were given three years each in prison. Another defendant was acquitted.

All of those convicted have the possibility to appeal.

Coptic Christians, who account for around 10 percent of Egypt's population, have been targeted in a string of attacks by IS in recent years that have left more than 100 dead.

Militant groups have also killed hundreds of police officers and soldiers since the military toppled the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Since former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over power in the wake of the coup, Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of people to death or lengthy jail terms after speedy mass trials.

Rights groups often accuse the Egyptian government of torture and of failing to ensure due process.

Egypt executed at least 43 people in 2018, according to Amnesty International.