On 26 May gunmen killed 29 Coptic Christian pilgrims, among them children, who were heading towards a monastery in the desert of Western Egypt. The attackers, claiming to be security officers, ordered part of the passengers to get out the bus and then shot them. Islamist terror group IS, which has called Christians in Egypt as their “favourite prey”, has claimed responsibility for the massacre. A few hours after the killings Egypt responded by carrying out airstrikes on militant camps in Libya, where armed men responsible for the deadly attack are believed to have trained.
Attacks on Coptic Christians
Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 93 million population, have suffered several attacks in the last few months. In April two suicide bombings at churches in Alexandra and Tanta killed 46, while a bomb attack on a Cairo church in December 2016 killed 21 Christians. After the attack in April Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a nationwide state of emergency and promised to boost security and protect Christian citizens. Many of Egypt’s Christians are increasingly frustrated and worried about the government’s apparent failure to protect them.
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) said in an official statement that it “offers its sincere condolences to the families of the victims”, and demands the "the full mobilization of all the real representatives of the Egyptian state to confront terrorism." Furthermore adding that "successive attacks on the political parties, imprisonment of the youth, interference in the judicial bodies, restrictions on the opposition MPs, and the near demolition of the civil society will only undermine the pillars of the state and indirectly support terrorism." US President Donald Trump said that the "merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls." Pope Francis, who visited Egypt in April, also expressed his solidarity with Egypt’s Coptic Christians, calling those killed in the bus attack “martyrs”. Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, the country’s top Islamic authority, also condemned the attack.