Egyptian police have killed eight suspected Islamist militants in shootouts in and around Cairo, the AFP news agency reports, quoting the country's interior ministry.

Those killed belonged to the Hasm group which is believed to be a breakaway faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Four others were reportedly arrested in a raid.

The operations were based on intelligence of planned attacks during celebrations for Coptic Christmas, the ministry was quoted as saying.

Hasm group has claimed deadly attacks on security forces as well as assassination attempts targeting a pro-government Muslim cleric and Egypt's deputy prosecutor general.

Coptic Christians account for around 10 percent of Egypt's 96-million population. They celebrate Christmas on 7 January.