Bloody ISIS attack intensifies fears of Egypt’s Copts
CAIRO - Fear was rife among Egypt’s Christian minority after unidentified attackers killed seven Christians and wounded at least 15 others who were on a bus travelling to a desert monastery near Minya province.
Around 25 Christians were en route to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor near Minya on November 2 from Sohag province when their bus was ambushed.
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
“There is a high degree of fear among the Christians,” said Polis Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church. “Some people are even afraid to go to the churches for prayer.”
Copts, who make up approximately 10% of Egypt’s population, have been the target of ISIS attacks for several years.
In February 2017, ISIS Sinai called for attacks against Christians. On April 9, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombing a church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and another outside a church in Alexandria. The attacks left at least 45 people dead and more than 125 injured.
The November 2 attack took place approximately 260km south of Cairo, near the site of an attack by ISIS on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims travelling to the same monastery on May 26. That attack left 29 Christians dead and 24 others injured.
Dozens of Christians took to the streets in Minya to protest the attack and demand retaliation.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, vowed to continue the country’s war against terrorism. “This attack would but strengthen our nation’s resolve to move ahead with its battle for construction,” he posted on Twitter.
Security analysts said ISIS, which receives one deadly blow after another at the hands of Egyptian troops in Sinai, wants to show that it is capable of action.
“ISIS only wants to show that it is still present and able to stage deadly attacks,” security analyst Gamal Eddine Mazloum said.
The Egyptian Army has been involved in an all-out campaign against ISIS in Sinai since February. The military often issues statement reporting gains against the terrorist organisation in its stronghold in North Sinai. On November 1, the army said that it had killed 18 ISIS members. However, ISIS still shows it can be deadly.
The main road to the Saint Samuel the Confessor monastery had been closed by police since May’s attack. To reach the monastery, pilgrims have been using side roads in the desert.
“This made it easy for the militants to target them and difficult for police to come to their rescue,” Mazloum said.
Halim said the Coptic Orthodox Church would demand additional security measures around churches.
“We will especially demand more protection for the monasteries in the desert,” Halim said. “We are badly in need of more police presence on roads leading to the monasteries.”