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Gunmen kill three police officers in Cairo drive-by attack

Three police officers have been killed and five others injured in a drive-by shooting in Cairo, Egypt's Interior Ministry said.

The attack happened when men armed with machine guns approached a police patrol in two cars i n the Nasr City neighbourhood of the capital late on Monday night and opened fire on the officers.

The ministry said the patrol exchanged fire with the attackers, who fled the scene.

The ministry said in a statement that two of the three policemen killed had the rank of captain. It did not specify how many assailants were involved or if any of them were wounded. An investigation is under way, it added.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the brazen attack.

Apart from the extremist Islamic State group, the shadowy Hasm, or "Decisiveness" - a lesser militant group the government suspects is linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood - has carried out similar attacks in the past.

The IS-led insurgency is centred mainly on the volatile, northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, but militants have occasionally struck further south and also on the mainland - such as in last month's massive suicide bombings in Tanta and in Alexandria. Both attacks were claimed by IS.

Monday's drive-by attack came two days after Pope Francis ended a historic visit to Egypt during which security was exceptionally tight, with police swarming Cairo's streets, particularly around the Vatican Embassy in the upmarket neighbourhood on the River Nile island of Zamalek and elsewhere where the pontiff visited.

The Hasm group has claimed several previous attacks in Cairo, usually targeting police positions and patrols. Its other attacks included a shooting against the country's former chief Muslim theologian and a car bombing against the deputy of the chief prosecutor. Both escaped unharmed.

Insurgent attacks have dramatically increased in Egypt since the military's 2013 ousting of elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader. The violence has mainly been concentrated in northern Sinai, where Islamic State-linked militants are battling the army.

AP

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