Islamic State claims responsibility for attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt
minya, egypt — The Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on a bus loaded with Coptic Christians near the southern city of Minya that officials said killed 29 people.
“A security team of caliphate soldiers set up an ambush for dozens of Christians as they headed to the church of St. Samuel,” the militant group said Saturday through Amaq, its media arm.
The bus passengers were shot to death on their way to volunteer at a monastery. Twenty-five others were wounded.
Friday’s attack, on the eve of the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, led Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to launch airstrikes on what officials said were militant training camps in the northeastern Libyan city of Derna. Sissi, a former general, said the gunmen had trained and planned the attack in Libyan camps, although Islamic State has not controlled Derna for two years.
In a Saturday phone call, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that officials found “information and evidence that terrorist elements involved in the Minya incident trained in these camps,” a statement said.
The military strikes did little to reassure Coptic Christians in Minya, a city on the banks of the Nile about 140 miles south of Cairo where about 40 percent of the population is Christian.
“This is not an isolated incident; it’s an evolution of a problem,” said Bishop Anba Makarios, the leader of Coptic Christians in Minya. “It is difficult to target Copts in churches because they have security and cameras. And in their homes, they live next to Muslims. So the new method is a way to get them alone: They pick a desert road in the heart of the mountain with no checkpoints or rest stops or anything on it so they can target only Copts.”
More than a hundred Christians have been killed in the Minya area in the past year, Makarios said. A year ago this month, an elderly Christian woman was stripped by an angry Muslim mob who believed her son was having an affair with a Muslim woman. The following July, another Christian was stabbed to death by a mob.
Makarios said the state needs to crack down on Muslim religious edicts, or fatwas, that incite violence against Christians.
“They should also focus on intelligence work to prevent these things from happening. The security apparatuses’ job is not just to investigate after the crime is committed but also to preemptively stop it from happening.”