Angry Copts mourn Egypt bus attack victims
The Islamic State group claimed Friday’s attack which killed seven Christians returning from a visit to Saint Samuel monastery.
MINYA - Angry Coptic Christians in mourning kept a vigil outside a hospital in central Egypt overnight to receive the bodies of relatives killed in a gun attack on the bus transporting pilgrims.
The Islamic State (IS) group claimed Friday’s attack which killed seven Christians returning from a visit to Saint Samuel monastery, the latest assault on Egypt’s religious minority.
A security source said seven people were also wounded in the attack near the city of Minya, the second such attack in two years targeting the desert monastery.
Outside the main hospital in Minya, dozens of victims’ family members waited until the early hours of Saturday to receive the bodies for burial.
An elderly woman wept for her dead son and wailed as she sat on the ground outside the hospital morgue.
“He was the best child... I’ll never see him again,” she said, as other mourners rushed to carry a coffin to an ambulance to be taken to a church for a funeral.
Security forces remained on the alert outside the hospital for fear of further attacks, while roads were blocked to the scene of the shooting.
Bishop Makarios of Minya visited the hospital to try to comfort mourners.
Another Coptic cleric, asking not to be named, told AFP around 24 people had escaped the attack unharmed and spent the night at a church in a nearby village.
STRING OF ATTACKS
“Should I carry a gun with me when I go to pray or when I’m at home? Because I could die if I go to church,” said Michel, a 23-year-old Copt whose neighbour was killed in the attack.
He said three of the victims had been siblings.
“What do these terrorists want? Do they want us to hate Muslims?”
On Saturday, a burned-out four-wheel-drive truck, which witnesses said had been used by a group of militants in white galabiya gowns, stood near the site of the attack.
Residents had attacked the car and handed two of its occupants to security forces, they said.
As Egypt’s Christians reeled from the latest attack, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences and led a minute of silence at a youth forum he was attending.
Copts, a Christian minority that make up 10% of Egypt’s 96 million people, have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State jihadist group.
In May 2017, masked gunmen ordered Christians travelling to Saint Samuel to get off their buses and recant their faith.
The group refused and were shot one by one, leaving 28 people dead in the IS-claimed attack.
IS also killed more than 40 people in twin church bombings in April 2017, and an IS gunman last December killed nine people in an attack on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
Egypt’s army launched a major offensive in February 2018 against IS in the Sinai Peninsula, where the group has waged a deadly insurgency since the fall of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, killing hundreds of soldiers and policemen.
The military offensive - Dubbed “Sinai 2018” - has killed more than 450 jihadists, according to an army estimate, with around 30 soldiers killed.
Copts have long complained of discrimination in Egypt and IS is not the only group to have launched sectarian attacks against the community.