On Friday, multiple gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo, leaving 28 dead, including children, and wounding another 22 people, Egyptian officials confirmed.
Witnesses say about a dozen attackers arriving in 3 SUVs targeted the bus. They were dressed in military uniforms and wearing masks. The victims were headed to a monastery to pray. Only three children survived the attack, the Copts United news portal reported.
After the attack, there was a video seen circulating on social media showing the bodies of about 10 men scattered in the sand on the side of the road with pools of blood around them. Children hysterically screaming could be heard in the background. Local media also reported that the attackers were recording video themselves.
Arab TV stations also showed images of the badly damaged bus along the roadside, many of its windows shattered and with numerous bullet holes. Footage of the bus’s interior showed blood stains on the seats and shattered glass.
The attack has not been claimed by a specific group, but Egypt’s Coptic Christians have become the preferred target of the Islamic State in the region. Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have repeatedly cried out for help from discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country’s majority Muslim population. Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s 93 million people.
There have been multiple attacks on Egypt’s Christian citizens, including a twin suicide bombing on Palm Sunday in April and another attack in December on a Cairo church, caught on video. ISIS in Egypt claimed responsibility for them and vowed more attacks.
“The government must be more intentional about protecting vulnerable minorities and punishing the attackers. Continual support for displaced families is vital, whether it is food, housing, or medical care. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” human rights group International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager William Stark reacted.
In February, members of an ISIS affiliate released a video saying that Egyptian Christians were their “favorite prey.” The video showed images of a suicide bomber who killed nearly 30 people inside a packed Cairo church in December.
“God gave orders to kill every infidel,” one of the militants carrying an AK-47 assault rifle said in the 20-minute video.
The latest attack came on the eve of the Muslims holy month of Ramadan. The bus was traveling on the road to the St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in the Minya governorate, about 140 miles south of Cairo, the health ministry said.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a security message, stating that it was aware of a potential threat posted on a website by the Hassm Group, a known terrorist organization, suggesting some kind of unspecified action that evening.
Pope Francis visited Egypt late last month to show his support for Christians in the heavily Muslim-populated country. During the trip, the Pope paid tribute to the victims of the December bombing at Cairo’s St. Peter’s church, located in close proximity to Cairo’s St. Mark’s cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church.