Coptic Christian mother sacrificed her life for her daughters in church terror attack

A Coptic mother sacrificed her life to save her two daughters during the December 29 terrorist attack targeting Christians at a church in Cairo, it has emerged.

Egypt Today reported that Nermin Sadik, 32, pushed her daughters, Nesma, 11, and Karin, 7, away when she saw the gunman at Saint Mina Coptic Church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, before falling to the ground.

ReutersSecurity forces stand guard at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017.

Nesma, the elder daughter, said: 'After falling, the terrorist looked angrily at a necklace on my mother's neck and then took out a weapon and fired several bullets at us. One of them hit my mother.'

Nesma added that as the girls' mother died, she held her daughters in her arms to protect them from the gunfire.

Sadik was a nurse, and her husband said she was 'affectionate for everyone...and she liked to help without charge'.

The account comes after Egypt's public prosecutor yesterday filed murder charges against a man accused of killing 11 people in the attack on the church and a Christian-owned shop in a Cairo suburb last week.

The man was receiving medical treatment in custody for injuries sustained in an exchange of gunfire with authorities outside the church. The prosecutor ordered him detained pending investigations.

'He is accused of premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed weapon and using it for terrorist activity,' a judicial source told Reuters.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks shortly afterwards, in a statement carried out by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the claim.

Separately, two Christian brothers helping a Coptic Christian shop owner were shot dead on New Year's Day in Giza, Greater Cairo. The men, who owned a car parts shop next door, had been helping to stock the shop with alcohol, reported World Watch Monitor and Al Arabiya.

The brothers were killed when a gunman pulled up outside the shop on a motorbike before shooting them with a rifle.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic Cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

Egypt's large Christian minority has increasingly been targeted in recent years by Islamist militants including Islamic State, which is waging an insurgency in the north of the remote Sinai Peninsula.