Egypt: 28 Killed as Gunmen Open Fire on Coptic Christians Traveling to Monastery

Egyptian Health Ministry has confirmed that a high number of children were among the victims ■ A source in the Coptic church said the trip was organized for children

An image grab taken from Egypt's state-run Nile News TV channel shows the remains of a bus that was attacked while carrying Egyptian Christians in Minya province, May 26, 2017.
AFP/ Nile News

Gunmnen opened fire on a group of Coptic Christians on Friday as they were driving to a monastery in the Minya province, south of Cairo. The Egyptian interior ministry said 28 were killed and more than 20 others were wounded in the attack.

The Egyptian Health Ministry has confirmed that a large number of children were among the victims in a trip that a source in the Coptic Church said was organized for children.

An image grab taken from Egypt's state-run Nile News TV channel shows the remains of a bus that was attacked while carrying Egyptian Christians in Minya province, May 26, 2017.
AFP / Nile News

Eyewitnesses said the Copts were attacked as they were going to pray at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in the western part of the province. Unidentified gunmen in three four-wheel-drive vehicles stopped the vehicles on a road leading to the monastery and opened fire.

The group was traveling in two buses and a truck through the province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority, the provincial governor, Essam al-Bedaiwy, said. 

Security chiefs had arrived at the scene of the attack and had set up a security perimeter, the spokesman said.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has called an emergency cabinet meeting in the wake of the attack.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 92 million, have been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months. 

About 70 have been killed in bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta since December. 

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's attack. 

Israel has strongly condemned the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement Friday sending "condolences from the Israeli people to the Egyptian people and to President el-Sissi."

Minya, Egypt.
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It says "terrorism will be defeated quicker if all countries act together against it."

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 and maintain close security cooperation.

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

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

The Palestinian militant group is seeking to improve relations with neighboring Egypt. After winning legislative elections in 2006, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in bloody street battles from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the following year.

Gaza has suffered increasing hardship under Hamas' rule, which triggered a border blockade by both Egypt and Israel.

Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has also condemned the attack, saying it "is a new crime added to the criminal record of a murderers' gang."

A statement released in Beirut called for a "strong and frank stance in the face of terrorism that takes religion as a cover."

It said such acts should be fought so that the "world does not go toward a precipice to which those criminals want to take it."

More details to follow.