Mil­i­tants at­tack Chris­tians in Egypt, killing at least 28

Cape Breton Post - - Religion/advice/games -

Masked gun­men rid­ing in three SUVs opened fire Fri­day on a packed bus tak­ing Cop­tic Chris­tians on a visit to a monastery south of Egypt’s cap­i­tal, killing at least 28 peo­ple, in­clud­ing two lit­tle chil­dren, au­thor­i­ties said.

Twenty-two oth­ers were re­ported wounded.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, the fourth against Chris­tians since De­cem­ber, but it bore the hall­marks of the Is­lamic State group. The blood­shed came on the eve of the start of the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madan.

For years, Is­lamic mil­i­tants have been wag­ing an in­sur­gency mostly cen­tred in Egypt’s Si­nai Penin­sula, though a grow­ing num­ber of at­tacks have re­cently also taken place on the main­land.

The bus was am­bushed 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.

The monastery, reach­able only by a short, un­paved route that veers off the main high­way, is in Minya prov­ince, where Chris­tians ac­count for more than 35 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, the high­est level of any prov­ince.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials quoted wit­nesses as say­ing they saw eight to 10 at­tack­ers in mil­i­tary uni­forms and masks.

Arab TV sta­tions showed images of a bus rid­dled with bul­let holes, with many of its win­dows shat­tered and blood­stains on the seats. Bod­ies lay on the ground, cov­ered with black plas­tic sheets. Chil­dren could be heard scream­ing hys­ter­i­cally in the back­ground.

Se­cu­rity and med­i­cal of­fi­cials, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to talk to re­porters, said the death toll stood at 28 but could rise. The dead in­cluded two lit­tle girls, ages 2 and 4.

The surge in vi­o­lence against Chris­tians in Egypt has added to the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenges fac­ing Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi’s gov­ern­ment as it strug­gles to con­tain the in­sur­gency while push­ing ahead with an am­bi­tious and po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive re­form pro­gram to re­vive the coun­try’s ail­ing econ­omy. The pro­gram has sent the cost of food and ser­vices soar­ing.

“The grow­ing num­ber of these ter­ror at­tacks is not at all re­as­sur­ing,” Fa­ther Rafic Gre­iche, spokesman for the Egyp­tian Catholic church, told a lo­cal TV sta­tion.

On Wed­nes­day, Egypt blocked ac­cess to nearly two dozen web­sites it said were sym­pa­thetic to mil­i­tants or spread­ing their ide­ol­ogy.

Last month, el-Sissi de­clared a three-month state of emer­gency fol­low­ing twin sui­cide bomb­ings that struck two churches north of Cairo on Palm Sun­day. In De­cem­ber, a sui­cide bomber tar­geted a Cairo church. The at­tacks, for which the Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, left at least 75 peo­ple dead.

AP PHOTO

This im­age re­leased by the Minya gov­er­norate me­dia of­fice shows bod­ies of vic­tims killed when gun­men stormed a bus in Minya, Egypt, Fri­day. Egyp­tian of­fi­cials say dozens of peo­ple were killed and wounded in an at­tack by masked mil­i­tants on a bus car­ry­ing Cop­tic Chris­tians, in­clud­ing chil­dren, south of Cairo.

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