Egypt’s interior ministry claimed yesterday to have killed 19 Islamist militants suspected of carrying out the bus attack on Friday that killed seven Copts and injured over a dozen others.
The militants were killed in a shootout in the desert area west of Minya governorate, where the attack took place, the BBC reported.
Friday’s attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, took place at almost exactly the same location as a May 2017 bus attack that left 28 dead. Both attacks targeted Coptic pilgrims travelling to St. Samuel’s monastery.
Funeral prayers were held on Saturday morning at the Amir Tadros Church in Minya, a church that was itself attacked during the anti-Christian violence that swept Egypt in August 2013 after the military used force to break up camps of protesters who had been demanding the reinstatement of former president Mohamed Morsi.
“I had hope and prayed that at least 2018, may pass without major deadly attacks on the peaceful Christians of Egypt,” said a spokesperson for the Christian charity Open Doors International, ahead of the funerals. “This is not the case now. This morning, another collective funeral is going to take place soon in the Coptic Church of St. Tadros, a church that was completely burned down by angry Muslim brotherhood in August 2013. The church was thankfully re-built by the army in later years. However, what would broken-hearted Christians do in a beautiful church building while they are going there to say good-bye to their loved ones?”
“There is a mix of sadness and pain,” said the bishop of Minya, Macarius. “Sadness as these painful events are being repeated and pain because Copts are part of this homeland and part of its fabric.”
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi held a minute’s silence for the victims and called the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, to offer his condolences, reported the BBC. The government has reportedly pledged 100,000 Egyptian pounds (around $5,500) in compensation for the victims’ families.
The independent news website Egyptian Streets reported that among those killed on Friday were members of the same family, including two children:
“The victims were Nady Youssef Shehata (54), Rida Youssef Shehata (51), Kamal Youssef Shehata (20), Poussy Melad Youssef Shehata (41), Asaad Farouk Labeeb (36), Bishoy Rida Youssef Shehata (15) and Marya Kamal Youssef Shehata (12).”
The website also reported that the Coptic Church had provided a list of 18 wounded, including three children, on its Facebook page.
“What do these terrorists want?” asked 23-year-old Michel, who lost a neighbour in the attack, as reported by the BBC. “Should I carry a gun with me when I go to pray or when I’m at home? Because I could die if I go to church.”
Hanaa Youssef Mikhael, who lost her husband in the 2017 bus attack, told Open Doors on Friday: “I am very sad about what happened. And I am startled: How is it possible that this happened again?”
“Why were they not protected?” asked Emad Nasif, a deacon in a church in Minya. “There seems to be an indifference to the safety of the Christian minority.”