Is­lamic State claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tack on Cop­tic Chris­tians in Egypt

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY MOLLY HEN­NESSY-FISKE

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.”

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