24 persons killed as gunmen attack bus carrying Egyptian Christians
Twenty-four people have been killed and 25 wounded in an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo – the latest in a string of terror incidents targeting the religious minority in Egypt.
Local media reported witnesses saying that between eight and 10 gunmen, dressed in military uniform, carried out the attack.
Activists monitoring the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt said that the attack targeted a private car, a bus and a truck as they drove along an unpaved desert road en route to the monastery of Saint Samuel, located close to Maghagha in the province of Minya, roughly 220km south of Cairo. The convoy was travelling to the monastery, carrying both worshippers and workers heading for the holy site.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi previously declared a state of emergency earlier this year, following two suicide bombings on Coptic churches that left at least 45 dead on 9 April. The attacks struck worshippers in the town of Tanta and the Egyptian port city of Alexandria as they celebrated Palm Sunday.
Many Coptic Christians in Egypt declined to celebrate the Easter holiday following the attack, which also sparked anger among the community who argued that lax security by the Egyptian government had allowed the attacks to take place. Egyptian authorities recently referred 48 defendants to military court for their involvement in the attacks.
Late last month, Pope Francis visited Egypt in part to show his support for Christians who have been increasingly targeted by Islamic militants.
Following the pope’s visit, Isis vowed to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies.
This latest attack undermined the Egyptian government’s visible efforts to bolster security following the Palm Sunday bombings, which were swiftly claimed by the Isis. While no group has so far claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, Isis previously named Christians in Egypt as their “favourite prey,” when claiming responsibility for a previous attack on a Coptic Cathedral in Cairo in December 2016, which left 29 dead.
“This proves that applying the state of emergency doesn’t provide safety, and Coptic Christians are still heavily targeted,” said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher on religious affairs at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Minya has one of the highest concentrations of Coptic Christians in Egypt, in a country where Christians comprise roughly 10% of the total 93 million population. Coptic Christians in and around Minya have complained of increasing sectarian violence in the town, including the burning of churches and other buildings used for worship, as well as stabbings and an incident where an elderly woman was stripped naked and paraded through the town. The Guardian