Gunmen in Egypt kill at least 28 Christians on a bus
CAIRO // Masked gunmen riding in three SUVs opened fire on a packed bus taking Coptic Christians on a visit to a monastery south of Egypt’s capital on Friday, killing at least 28 people, including two children.
Twenty-two others were wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the fourth to target Christians since December, but it bore the hallmarks of ISIL.
The bloodshed came on the eve of Ramadan.
The bus came under fire on a side road in the desert on its way to the remote monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Maghagha, about 220 kilometres south of Cairo.
President Sheikh Khalifa and other UAE leaders were among the first to send condolonces to the Egyptian government and the families of the victims.
The monastery is in Minya province, where Christians make up more than 35 per cent of the population, the highest level of any province.
According to security officials, witnesses said they had seen eight to 10 attackers in military uniforms and masks. Arab television stations showed images of a bus riddled with bullet holes, blood on the seats and bodies on the ground.
Security and medical officials put the number of dead at 28, but said it could rise. The dead included two girls, aged 2 and 4.
The government is likely to tighten security around churches, monasteries, schools and pilgrimage routes.
The surge in violence against Christians in Egypt has added to the challenges facing president Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s government as it struggles to contain the insurgency while pushing ahead with an ambitious and politically sensitive reform programme to revive the economy.
“The growing number of these terror attacks is not at all reassuring,” said Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church.
On Wednesday, Egypt blocked nearly two dozen websites it said were sympathetic to militants or spreading their ideology. Last month, Mr El Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency after suicide bombings at two churches north of Cairo on Palm Sunday. In December, a suicide bomber targeted a church in Ciaor. ISIL admitted both attacks, which killed 75 people.
ISIL vowed to escalate attacks against Christians after Pope Francis visited Egypt last month, and urged Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies.
Egypt’s Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East and have long complained of discrimination and violence at the hands of radicals.
* Associated Press
Updated: May 26, 2017 04:00 AM