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2 Egyptian officers killed outside Coptic church

This as Coptic Christians prepare to mark Orthodox Christmas Eve.

Cairo, Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

PRETORIA - As Coptic Christians prepare to mark Orthodox Christmas Eve, two policemen guarding a church were gunned down.

Assaults on Christians have increased in Egypt since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi 18 months ago.

The attack took place in the provincial capital of Minya, about 220 kilometres south of Cairo.

It is home to Egypt's largest Coptic community who observe Christmas according to the old, Julian calendar.

Police cordoned off the area and are searching for the perpetrators.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million population, face increasing discrimination and violence by the nation's Muslim majority.

Islamists claim that Egypt's Christians played a disproportionately large role in the mass protests that preceded Morsi's ouster.