Egypt attack: Gunmen kill seven Coptic Christians in bus ambush
On Friday, Nov 2, 2018, Islamist gunmen killed at least seven Coptic Christian pilgrims and wounded at least sixteen in Egypt. Bringing an almost one year of calm to an end, the attack occurred as two buses carrying pilgrims left the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, 85 miles south of Cairo, in Egypt’s Western Desert.
According to reports, masked gunmen riding a pair of off-road vehicles stopped the buses as they left the monastery. The gunmen stepped up and opened fire. One of the buses managed to speed away, but the other, in which the seven people were killed, did not. The church said that all but one of those killed were members of the same family. The local Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its Amaq news agency.
The Islamic State has repeatedly vowed to go after Egypt’s Christians as punishment for their support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. As defense minister, el-Sissi led the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president, whose one-year rule proved divisive. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks on Christians dating back to December 2016. As such, an almost identical attack occurred in the same desert road in May 2017. In that incident, gunmen wearing military uniforms opened fire on three buses that were traveling in a convoy toward the monastery of Saint Samuel where at least 28 people were killed. Additionally, in the past two years, Islamist suicide bombers have hit prominent churches in Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta, killing at least 100 people.
The attack coincided with on one of el-Sissi’s prestige events— the World Youth Forum – which opens Saturday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and hopes to draw thousands of Egyptian and international youth to discuss upcoming projects, with Egypt’s 63-year-old leader taking the stage.
In a statement, Mr. Sisi condemned the attack as an act of “black terrorism” carried out by forces that were “seeking to undermine the cohesive fabric of the homeland.” He vowed to find and prosecute the perpetrators who fled the scene and still at large. In the past year, tighter security around Christian places of worship and the capture of high-level militant commanders, including one apprehended last month in Libya, led to a sharp reduction in Islamist attacks. But the attack on Friday signaled that a deadly threat remains.
The Copts have also been staunch supporters of Mr. Sisi, although their backing has been shaken by violent attacks in the past two years. Egypt’s Christians, who account for 10 to 15 percent of the country’s 100 million people, complain of discrimination in the Muslim majority country. Christian activists say the church’s alliance with el-Sissi has offered the ancient community a measure of protection but failed to end repeated acts of discrimination that boil over into violence against Christians, especially in rural Egypt.