Christians in Egypt prepare to bury dead a day after attack

Christians in Egypt prepare to bury dead a day after attack
Copyright  Reuters
By Claire Heffron with Reuters
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Gunmen killed at least seven in an attack on a bus driving towards a Coptic Christian monastery in Egypt.


Coptic Christians in the Egyptian town of Minya prepared to bury their dead on Saturday, a day after militants ambushed three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery, killing seven and wounding 19.

A priest and members of a Christian congregation prayed and chanted over a row of white coffins ahead of a funeral service for the dead.

All but one of those killed were members of the same family, according to a list of the victims' names released by the church, which said a boy and a girl, ages 15 and 12 respectively, were among the dead.

Mourners gather for the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed in an attack, at the Prince Tadros Church in Minya

The Islamic State militant claimed responsibility for the attack south of Cairo in a statement.

It said the attack was revenge for the imprisonment by Egyptian authorities of "our chaste sisters" without elaborating.

The Islamic State militant group claimed that 13 Christians killed and another 18 wounded, but it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim or reconcile the discrepancy in the number of dead and wounded given by the group and the church.

El-Sissi wrote on his Twitter account that Friday's attack was designed to harm the "nation's solid fabric" and pledged to continue fighting terrorism.

He offered his condolences when he spoke by telephone with Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt's Orthodox Christians.

In a somber message of his own, Tawadros said in a video clip released by the church that the latest attack would only make the Christians stronger.

"I think that this is a terrorist act which is targeting Egypt through playing the card of the Copts," said Begemy Nassem Nasr, priest of the church of St. Mary in Minya. "We know that ... President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is hosting the youth forum and they meant to embarrass him."

Friday's attack is the second to target pilgrims travelling to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in as many years

The previous attack in May 2017 left nearly 30 people dead. It is also the latest by IS to target Christians in churches in Cairo, Alexandria, and Tanta in the Nile Delta north of the capital.

Those incidents left at least 100 people dead and led to tighter security around Christian places of worship and Church-linked facilities.

The Interior Ministry said Friday's attackers used secondary dirt roads to reach the buses carrying the pilgrims, who were near the monastery at the time of the attack.

Only pilgrims have been allowed on the main road leading to the monastery since last year's attack.

The Interior Ministry said that only one bus was attacked, but the latest statement by the church said three buses were targeted and put the death toll at 7 and the wounded at 19, including two in critical condition.

It said police were pursuing the attackers, who fled the scene.

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