News

Masked gunmen kill 28 in attack on Christians in Egypt

Authorities inspect the aftermath of an attack on buses and a truck carrying Coptic Christians in Minya Province, Egypt, on May 26, 2017. Screenshot from video

CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in central Egypt on Friday, killing 28 people and wounding 24, with many children among the victims, Health Ministry officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. It followed a series of church bombings claimed by Islamic State in a campaign of violence against the Copts.

Islamic State supporters reposted videos from earlier this year urging violence against the Copts in Egypt.

Eyewitnesses said masked men opened fire after stopping the Christians, who were in a bus and other vehicles. Local TV channels showed a bus apparently raked by gunfire and smeared with blood.

Clothes and shoes could be seen lying in and around the bus, while the bodies of some of the victims lay in the sand nearby, covered with black sheets.

The attack, which Egypt’s Muslim leaders condemned, happened 15 km (10 miles) from the monastery, a security official on the scene told Reuters. Ambulance workers, monks and Muslim clerics were also present but declined to speak.

Police armed with assault rifles formed a security perimeter and officials from the public prosecutor’s office were gathering evidence and fingerprints. Heavily armed special forces arrived later wearing face masks and body armor.

The injured were taken to local hospitals and some were being transported to Cairo. One of the vehicles attacked was taking men to carry out maintenance work at the monastery while another had children on board, officials said.

Dozens of people gathered at the emergency area of a local hospital. Some carried a wooden coffin to a hearse.

The Health Ministry said that among those injured were two children aged two.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said, and the cabinet said the attackers would not succeed in dividing the nation.

The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilize the country.

“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, condemned the perpetrators as traitors.

The Coptic church said it had received news of the killing of its “martyrs” with pain and sorrow.

The attack took place on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizable Christian minority. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

Persecution

Coptic Christians, whose church dates back nearly 2,000 years, make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million.

They say they have long suffered from persecution, but in recent months the frequency of deadly attacks against them has increased. About 70 have been killed since December in bombings claimed by IS at churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta.

An Islamic State campaign of murders in North Sinai prompted hundreds of Christians to flee in February and March.

Copts fear they will face the same fate as brethren in Iraq and Syria, where Christian communities have been decimated by wars and Islamic State persecution.

Egypt’s Copts are vocal supporters of Sisi, who has vowed to crush Islamist extremism and protect Christians. He declared a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of thechurch bombings in April.

But many Christians feel the state either does not take their plight seriously enough or cannot protect them against determined fanatics.

The government is fighting insurgents affiliated to Islamic State who have killed hundreds of police and soldiers in the Sinai peninsula, while also carrying out attacks elsewhere in the country.

Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said the state of emergency was failing to prevent attacks.

“The state is not addressing the root cause, which is the sectarian climate that encourages terrorism,” he said. “There are no serious steps being taken to use culture or education to address this.”

About the author

Reuters

5 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • We weep for these new martyrs. May justice be done and the killers be punished sooner rather than later.

  • Father, bless whomever has done this travesty. Show them the error of their ways and that they need You, and not some hatefulness that accomplishes nothing but bringing people to you faster – a blessing of sorts. Help these people to know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one will see the Father except through Him, and that You offer a better way. In Jesus name. (edited)

  • The following were previously listed by ‘Rational Conclusion’. They are the reason why such travesties, as the article describes, will not stop until brave and courageous Imams point out the antiquity, lack of love and lack of common sense they represent.

    Follow after the things that make for peace the Bible says. There should be something in the Koran that is similar to that and those would be the kinds of verses that should be ‘heartily believed and preached’.

    From the Koran, the heart of the Muslim faith:

    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    “Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons…he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home…” (Surah 8:12-)

    “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)
    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)

    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:29-)

    “It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it.” (Surah 9:31-)

    “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)

    “Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home.” (Surah 9:73)

    “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)
    “Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)

    “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

    “Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him…He has given you the name of Muslims…” (Surah 22:78-)

    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5-)

    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

    “Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?…Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents…They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets…Blessed be the name of your Lord…” (Surah 55:52-66-)

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

ADVERTISEMENTs