28 Coptic Christians are dead after gunmen opened fire on a bus near Cairo today. A number of children are among the victims and at least 22 more people are injured.
The mass shooting is just the latest in a series of violent attacks on Christians in Egypt. Only 10% of Egypt’s population is Christian, and in December, ISIS issued a statement calling Christians their “favorite prey.” Two churches in Egypt were bombed by ISIS last year: one on Easter, the other in December during the Christmas season.
Dressed in military-style clothing and using automatic machine guns, the gunmen targeted a group of Christians visiting a monastery. Only three children are known to have survived the Egypt terror attack.
Video circulating on social media after the attack showed about the bodies of about 10 men scattered in the sand on the side of the road with pools of blood around them. Children hysterically screaming could be heard in the background. Local media also reported that the attackers were recording video themselves.
Arab TV stations also showed images of the badly damaged bus along the roadside, many of its windows shattered and with numerous bullet holes. Footage of the bus’s interior showed blood stains on the seats and shattered glass.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Egypt’s Coptic Christians have become the preferred target of the Islamic State in the region. Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have repeatedly cried out for help from discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country’s majority Muslim population.
Among the wave of recent attacks on Egypt’s Christians: twin suicide bombings on Palm Sunday in April and another attack in December on a Cairo church, caught on video. ISIS in Egypt claimed responsibility for them and vowed more attacks.
Many of Egypt’s Christians rallied behind the general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in 2013 when he ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood group. Attacks on Christian homes, businesses and churches have surged in the ensuing years, especially in the country’s south.
In February, members of an ISIS affiliate released a video saying that Egyptian Christians were their “favorite prey.” The video showed images of a suicide bomber who killed nearly 30 people inside a packed Cairo church in December.
“God gave orders to kill every infidel,” one of the militants carrying an AK-47 assault rifle said in the 20-minute video.
The latest deadly attack came on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. The bus was traveling on the road to the St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in the Minya governorate, about 140 miles south of Cairo, the health ministry said.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a security message, stating that it was aware of a potential threat posted on a website by the Hassm Group, a known terrorist organization, suggesting some kind of unspecified action that evening.