BREAKING: Gunmen Target Coptic Christian Pilgrims in Upper Egypt
***WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES***
Early reports indicate that a bus carrying Coptic Christian pilgrims to a monastery in Minya province in Upper Egypt has been attacked by gunmen.
The Islamic State affiliate in Egypt has claimed credit for the attack:
At least seven were killed after unknown gunmen shot at a bus transporting a group of Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Minya governorate on Friday.
The group was heading to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, located in the western desert.
A similar attack involving the same monastery took place in May 2017, when gunmen driving three 4x4 wheelers shot at a bus carrying Coptic pilgrims to the same location, killing 30 people.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.
A church spokesman and the Minya governor has confirmed the 7 dead figure. The website "Coptstoday" is citing diocese sources claiming 10 were killed.
The official Coptic Church spokesperson account posted images on Facebook showing at least two children/young teens killed in today's attack.
A second statement by the Church spokesperson states that a bus owned by a church in Sohag and a minibus following behind were the targets of today's attack. The fatalities from the attack were those occupying the minibus, which carried a family returning from the monastery after the baptism of one of the family's children.
Egypt's President Sisi has posted a statement on his official Twitter account saying:
I am deeply saddened by the martyrs who fell today by treacherous hands seeking to undermine the fabric of a cohesive homeland... I wish the wounded a speedy recovery and affirm our determination to continue our efforts to combat dark terrorism and to prosecute the perpetrators.
This incident will not undermine the will of our nation to continue its battle to prevail and build.
Reports indicate that President Sisi has called Pope Tawadros to offer his condolences.
As I reported in May 2017, Islamic State gunmen killed 31 in the previous attack on the eve of Ramadan as a busload of pilgrims were traveling to the St. Samuel Monastery.
Some early images and video from today's attack site are beginning to appear.
In April 2014, I traveled to Minya, one of the largest cities in Upper Egypt, and throughout the province surveying the damage caused by a nationwide arson terror campaign targeting Christian churches, monasteries, and businesses launched by the Muslim Brotherhood in August 2013. More than 70 churches and monasteries were torched.
I will update as more information becomes available.
Previous coverage of attacks on the Coptic Christian community in Egypt: