Copts anguished after terror attack, Egypt retaliates in Libya
Cairo - Anger and fear gripped Egypt’s Coptic Christians after masked gunmen killed more than two dozen Christian villagers and workmen travelling to a southern desert monastery.
“We cannot fall silent while we are being targeted every day,” said Naguib Gabriel, a Christian activist and a long-time lawyer of the Coptic Orthodox Church. “Security agencies do not take enough measures to secure Christians, which raises many questions.”
Gunmen opened fire on two buses carrying children and their families on the morning of May 26 as they travelled from a village in the central province of Beni Suef to Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery, in Minya province, around 280km south of Cairo.
When one of the gunmen’s vehicles got a flat tyre, they stopped a truck carrying Christian workers, shot them and took the truck. A total of 24 other people were wounded in the attacks.
Bishop Makarios of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Minya told the New York Times that many of the victims in the bus attack were shot at close range.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered air strikes on what he called terrorist camps in eastern Libya, which he said had produced the attackers.
“The terrorist incident that took place today will not pass unnoticed,” Sisi said. “We are currently targeting the camps where the terrorists are trained.”
This was the fourth attack on Egypt’s Christians in less than five months. In December, a Cairo chapel was bombed, killing 29 people. Four months later, churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta were attacked and more than 90 Christians killed.
The latest attack came hours before the start of Ramadan, spoiling the national festive mood that normally greets the coming of Islam’s holy month of fasting. Egypt’s Islamic religious authorities cancelled the annual Ramadan Eve celebration in solidarity with Christians.
There was no claim of responsibility but authorities accused the Islamic State (ISIS) of being behind the killings. ISIS claimed it was responsible for the previous attacks against Copts and has repeatedly threatened to target the minority, which makes up around 10% of Egypt’s population of 93 million.
The state of fear has led to calls from the Coptic Orthodox Church for authorities to work harder to protect its congregation.
“We are hopeful that some extra effort would be made to prevent such attacks in the future,” the Reverend Polis Halim, the official spokesman for the church, told The Arab Weekly. “We know that policemen do their best but the success of each new attack gives the Copts the impression that they are not a priority for security agencies in their country.”