Thursday 17 August 2017

Egypt strikes back after gunmen kill 28 Coptic Christians in bus attack

The incident took place south of the Egyptian capital
The incident took place south of the Egyptian capital

Egypt's government forces have struck bases in which militants who waged a deadly attack against Christians have been trained.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said fighter jets struck militant bases in eastern Libya in retaliation for an attack by suspected Islamic State militants that killed 28 Christians and wounded another 22 south of Cairo.

The officials said the warplanes targeted the headquarters of the Shura Council in the city of Darna, where local militias are known to be linked to al Qaida, not the Islamic State group.

Me el-Sissi warned that Egypt will strike at any bases that train militants who wage attacks in the country, wherever they may be.

He also directly appealed to US President Donald Trump to take the lead in the fight against global terror.

In a televised address just hours after the attack, Mr el-Sissi said "I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task."

He also repeated calls that countries which finance, train or arm extremists be punished.

In response, Mr Trump condemned the attack blaming "'evil organisations of terror" and "thuggish ideology".

In a strongly worded statement, Mr Trump referred to the "merciless slaughter of Christians" and said a "wound is inflicted upon humanity" every time innocent blood is spilled.

He said the attack by masked militants on a bus taking the worshippers to a monastery should bring nations together to crush "evil organisations of terror".

The assault happened while the bus was travelling on a side road in the desert leading to the remote monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Maghagha, in Minya, about 140 miles south of Cairo.

Witnesses saw between eight and 10 attackers, dressed in military uniforms and wearing masks.

The victims were en route from the nearby province of Beni Suef to visit the monastery.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the fourth to target Christians since December, but it bore the hallmarks of Islamic State (IS).

The attack came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Islamic militants have for years been waging an insurgency mostly centered in the restive northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, although a growing number of attacks have recently also taken place on the mainland.

The militant Islamic group Hamas, which rules Gaza, has condemned the attack.

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the shooting "an ugly crime", of which "the enemies of Egypt" are the only beneficiaries.

Security and medical officials feared the death toll could rise further. According to the Copts United news portal, only three children survived the attack. It is not immediately known how many of the victims were children.

On Wednesday, Egypt blocked access to nearly two dozen websites it said were sympathetic to militants or spreading their ideology.

"The growing number of these terror attacks is not at all reassuring," Fr Rafic Greiche, the spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic church, told a local television station.

Late last month, Pope Francis visited Egypt, in part to show his support for Christians in this Muslim majority Arab nation following the December and April attacks.

Following the Pope's visit, IS vowed to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and Western embassies, saying they are targets for the group's followers.

Egypt's Copts, the Middle East's largest Christian community, have long complained of discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country's majority Muslim population. They account for about 10% of Egypt's 93 million people.

AP

Press Association

Editors Choice

Also in World News