Egypt 28 Copts dead in attack on three vehicles

27 May 2017

At least 28 people were killed and 23 injured on 26 May when masked gunmen opened fire on three vehicles transporting members of the Coptic community.

At least 28 people were killed and 23 injured on 26 May when masked gunmen opened fire on three vehicles transporting members of the Coptic community to St Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Minya governorate. The victims included women, children and the elderly.

The gunmen were reportedly dressed in military attire and armed with automatic weapons. They fired upon a bus carrying Coptic families from al-Fashn town near Beni Suef governate, a minibus full of children from the Church of the Holy Virgin in Maghagha in Minya and a pickup truck transporting 16 Coptic labourers from the village of Deir al-Garanos, also located in Minya.

Eyewitnesses interviewed by Egyptian news agencies said that ten to 12 unidentified gunmen in four sports utility vehicles descended from the Abu-Tartour plateau as the three vehicles carrying the Copts drove along the desert side road that leads to the monastery. Unconfirmed sources report that after spraying the vehicles with bullets, the gunmen also boarded the bus and executed several people at close range. According to Al Watani newspaper, the only children to survive the attack were three young boys. Al Watani also reports that before leaving the scene of the massacre, the killers threw pamphlets into each of the vehicles that said:  “A fast accepted, and all sins forgiven."

The shootings in Minya have occurred almost a month into a three-month state of emergency declared by the Egyptian government following suicide bombings at churches in Alexandria and Tanta  on Palm Sunday, which killed 44 people. Daesh eventually claimed responsibility for the bombings. Although the terrorist group is yet to claim responsibility for this attack, in May, the Daesh-affiliated magazine Dabiq published an article in which the group’s purported leader in Egypt boasted of continuing attacks on Copts.

The killings have been condemned by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb, who is currently visiting Germany, and who called on Egyptians “to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism.” Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, also condemned the killings, describing the perpetrators as “traitors”. A statement from the presidency said President el Sisi was closely following up on the security situation in the country, and had instructed the authorities to take all necessary measures to attend to the injured and arrest the assailants.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, (CSW) said: "We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those killed in this appalling attack. We stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt as they face unprecedented terrorist activity conducted by a death cult that manipulates religion and has no regard for the sanctity of human life.  While the attack underlines once again the need for greater vigilance on the part of the security forces, the fact that it occurred in an area known for sectarian attacks highlights the urgent need not only to ensure accountability for these attacks, but also to promote equal citizenship at a local level, and a robust enforcement of the rule of law to underpin this ethos.”​

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