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Masked gunmen dressed in military uniforms attacked a group of Coptic Christians south of the Egyptian capital on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 26 others as they were driving to a monastery, medical sources and eyewitnesses said, reported Asharq Al Awsat (UK).
The group was traveling in two buses and a small truck in Minya province about 220 kilometers south of Cairo, the sources said. The province is home to a sizable Christian minority.
Provincial governor Essam al-Bedaiwy said earlier that 23 people had been killed and 25 wounded.
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.
They said masked men wearing military uniforms stopped the vehicles on a road leading to the monastery and opened fire.
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 ISIS. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack, which came on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
Egypt has been fighting ISIS-linked militants who have waged an insurgency, mainly focused in the volatile north of the Sinai Peninsula but there have been also attacks on the mainland.
Following Friday’s attack, security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.
The grand imam of al-Azhar said the attack was intended to destabilise the country.
“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church said on Friday it was “in pain over violence and evil,” hours following an attack in Upper Egypt's Minya on a bus carrying Coptic Christians, which killed 26 people and injured others, reported Al Ahram (Egypt).
In an official statement, the church expressed its consolations to the families of the victims, adding that it was suffering "with the whole nation over the violence and evil that targets the heart of Egypt and our national unity, which is precious and which we strive to preserve and protect.”
“While we appreciate the fast response by officials in dealing with the event, we hope that necessary procedures are undertaken to avoid such attacks, which damage Egypt’s image and cause Egyptians a great deal of pain,” the statement added.
This is the first official response by the Coptic Orthodox Church after unknown assailants on three 4x4 vehicles attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians on the way to Saint Samuel Monastery in the east of Minya governorate.
Egypt’s interior ministry released details on the attack, saying in an official statement that the assailants attacked by "randomly shooting" the bus.
The ministry added that an official count of the final deaths and injuries was underway.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Egypt’s Christians, following the Palm Sunday Suicide Bombings last April and a St Peter Church bombing in Cairo last December.
show source http://english.aawsat.com/asharq-al-awsat-english/news-middle-east/least-26-dead-attack-copts-egypt http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/269562/-.aspx