Two dozen Coptic Christians have been killed in three recent attacks by Muslim terrorists in southern Egypt.

A dozen Coptic Christians were shot and killed as they listened to their priest's sermon February 12 at Church of Mar Girgis in Abu Qurqas, about 145 miles south of Cairo.

Three masked gunmen with automatic weapons fired more than 200 bullets at 29 students attending a youth meeting. Abu Qurqas has drawn attention in the past two years for terrorist activities by the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a radical Muslim group trying to overthrow the government. Al-Gamaa has denied involvement in the recent attacks, but the government says its members are suspects.

The murders marked the first time Christian worshipers have been attacked while in a church.

Two days later, three more Christians were killed in a sugarcane field in a nearby village.

Then, on March 13, three Muslim militants disguised as police officers killed 13, including nine Coptic Christians walking in Nag Dawoud village near Nag Hamadi, about 350 miles south of Cairo.

Eyewitnesses speculated that terrorists planned to kill Christians at a church, but they changed their minds because of police stationed there.

Hundreds of Coptic Christians in Egypt have been killed by extremists since 1992.

Church and human-rights leaders demanded that the government provide better security for Coptic churches after the February 12 murders.

The church assault provoked denunciations from President Hosni Mubarak and moderate Muslim religious leaders. Departing from its response to earlier incidents, the government offered compensation for the attack. Families received $900, or about two-and-a-half-years' wages, for each relative killed and $100 for each person injured.

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