At least seven people killed and 14 injured as gunmen open fire on a bus heading toward Coptic Christian monastery in Egypt
- Gun shots said to be fired near the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor
- Archbishop of Minya said on Friday that at least 14 people were also wounded
- Coptic Christians in Egypt have faced a series of terror attacks in recent years
At least seven people have been killed in a gun attack on a bus heading towards a Coptic Christian monastery in Egypt, the Church has said.
At least 14 people had also been wounded in the assault, the archbishop of Minya said, with officials saying the death toll was likely to rise.
Gunshots were fired on pilgrims travelling to the remote desert monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, 160 miles south of Cairo.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on the bus but security officials said it bore the hallmarks of Islamic militants, who have previously targeted the site.
The Christians were on the way to Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor (pictured in file photo) in Minya Province when they were attacked on Friday
Church spokesman Bouls Halim said the death toll in Friday’s attack, in the Minya governorate south of Cairo, is likely to rise.
ISIS militants have for years been fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya.
The EU’s diplomatic mission in Egypt condemned the ‘ugly and cowardly’ attack today, declaring solidarity with the government in Cairo.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of its population, have come under attack by Islamist radicals several times over the past years.
In December last year ISIS claimed responsibility for a gun attack on a Coptic Christian bookshop and church in Cairo that killed nine people.
The same monastery targeted today was previously hit by a terror attack in May 2017 when ISIS jihadists shot dead 29 Christian worshippers.
The attack prompted Egypt to unleash air strikes on jihadist camps in Libya.
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On that occasion last year a group of up to 10 masked attackers dressed in military uniforms stopped a convoy as the group headed towards the monastery to pray.
In December 2016 a bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo killed 30 people and wounds dozens during Sunday Mass.
Egypt says fighting Islamist militants is a priority to restore security after the years of turmoil that followed the ‘Arab Spring’ protests.
Egypt’s Copts are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority. They trace their history to the dawn of Christianity, when Egypt was integrated into the Roman and later the Byzantine empire.
Several churches and monasteries in Egypt are built on sites Copts believe were visited by the Holy Family.
At least seven people have been killed in an attack on a bus heading towards a Coptic Christian monastery in upper Egypt
The word ‘Copt’ comes from the same root as the word for ‘Egyptian’ in ancient Greek.
The community’s decline started with the Arab invasions of the 7th century and the progressive Islamisation of the country, which today is largely Sunni Muslim.
Most adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, headed since 2012 by Pope Tawadros II. A minority is divided between Coptic Catholics and various Coptic Protestant branches.
Tawadros, who succeeded pope Shenuda III, was chosen by a blindfolded altar boy picking his name from a chalice, according to tradition.
The Vatican says some 165,000 Catholic Copts lived in Egypt in 2010.
Poorly represented in government, Copts complain that they are sidelined from many posts in the justice system, universities and the police.
THE LATEST ATTACKS ON EGYPT’S COPTIC CHRISTIAN MINORITY
Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of its population, have come under attack by Islamist radicals several times over the past years.
– 2017 –
December 29: ISIS claim responsibility for a gun attack on a Coptic Christian bookshop and church in Cairo that killed nine people.
The fanatic, armed with an assault rifle, 150 rounds of ammunition and a bomb, went on the rampage outside Mar Mina church in the capital before being shot himself as he tried to storm the building.
May 26: Masked gunmen order Christians travelling to a desert monastery to get off their buses and recant their faith.
The group – a mix of visitors and workers heading to the Saint Samuel monastery south of Cairo – refuse and are shot one by one. About 30 people are killed.
ISIS claims responsibility.
– April 9: Two churches are bombed on Palm Sunday, killing 45 people. The attacks are in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a service. He is unharmed.
ISIS claims responsiblity and says both were suicide attacks.
– 2016 –
– December 11: A suicide attack during a Sunday service at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church in central Cairo, adjacent to the headquarters of Pope Tawadros, kills 29. It is claimed by ISIS.
– 2013 –
– October 20: Four members of the same family, including two youngs girls, are gunned down by attackers on motorbikes as they leave Cairo’s Church of the Virgin following a wedding.
It is the first attack targeting the capital’s Coptic community since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
This follows attacks on dozens of churches, homes and businesses belonging to Copts after the bloody breaking up of two pro-Morsi gatherings in Cairo in August and with perceptions that Copts had backed his overthrow.
– 2011 –
– January 1: A blast kills 23 and wounds 79, mostly Christians, as they leave a Coptic church after New Year’s mass in Alexandria.
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