ISLAMIST militants who attacked Egyptian Coptic pilgrims last week are reported to have been killed in a confrontation with police.
Seven Copts were killed last Friday when armed men stormed two buses carrying Christians to a monastery near Minya, 140 miles south of the capital, Cairo. Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which at least seven people were also injured.
On Sunday, Egypt’s interior ministry announced that police had tracked the terrorists into the desert, and 19 of them had been shot and killed during a firefight. It also released photographs of bodies, tents, guns, and IS propaganda.
The atrocity was the latest in a long line of attacks on Egypt’s Coptic minority, which makes up about ten per cent of the Muslim-majority population.
Last year, Islamist gunmen killed 28 Coptic pilgrims on their way to the same monastery in the Minya region (News, 26 May 2017). That attack came one month after twin suicide bombings, in which at least 45 Christians died at a church and a cathedral on Palm Sunday(News, 21 April 2017).
In October, a Coptic priest was stabbed to death while collecting humanitarian aid for his parish in Cairo (News, 20 October 2017).
The chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, said that Egyptian authorities must “increase . . . efforts to contain and combat sectarianism. This requires upholding constitutional rights, and ensuring that all citizens are treated equally.
“Egypt must end all forms of discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities; this includes restrictions on building places of worship for non-Muslims, and state-sponsored reconciliation sessions depriving victims from their rights and emphasising the culture of impunity.”
Some Muslims in Egypt accuse the Coptic Church of allying with the country’s President, the former army general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who overthrew the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in a coup in 2013 (News, 5 July 2013).
Fostering a good relationship with Mr Sisi, however, has not protected Copts from repeated bomb, gun, and knife attacks in recent years. Copts are also regularly the target of more low-level violence from anti-Christians mobs, and also suffer from discrimination and unfair treatment in the country’s legal system.