Cairo: At least 26 people, mostly children, were killed and 25 others injured today when heavily-armed gunmen wearing army fatigues opened indiscriminate fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, the second major attack on the community in nearly two months.
The masked gunmen attacked a bus taking a group of Coptic Christians to Anba Samuel monastery in the Minya Governorate, 250km south of Cairo, the Ministry of Interior said. The gunmen were riding in three 4×4 vehicles, it said. Twenty-six Christians were killed and 25 others injured in the attack, it said.
Sources and eyewitnesses said that most of the victims were children. The ages of the victims ranged from children to over 60, the bishop of El-Minya told Egyptian private-owned TV Channel DMC. Many victims were children, only three kids survived the attack, a source from the Orthodox Church told Al-Ahram newspaper. Reports said there had been between eight and 10 attackers who were wearing military uniforms.
Security forces have cordoned off the area and were searching for the attackers. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.The attack comes as the country is still under a three- month state of emergency period following twin attacks on Coptic churches on Palm Sunday last month that killed dozens of people, in attacks claimed by ISIS.
President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi called for an emergency security meeting to follow up on the attacks. In a statement from the presidency, El-Sisi also instructed authorities to take all necessary measures to attend to the injured and arrest the assailants.
Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek has ordered an extensive investigation to arrest the attackers, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported. There have been a number of attacks on Copts in the country in recent months claimed by Islamic State militants. The Minya attack is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Egypt’s Christians, following the Palm Sunday Suicide Bombings.
On April 9, two suicide bombers hit Saint George’s Cathedral in Tanta and St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, killing and injuring dozens in the deadliest attack against civilians in the country’s recent history. A total of 29 people died in the Tanta explosion and 18 in Alexandria. In December last year, an attack on a Coptic church in Cairo killed 25 people.
Coptic Christians, which make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 91 million population, have faced persecution in Egypt, which has spiked since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011.