Egypt Coptic Christians killed in bus attack

Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, killing at least 23 people and wounding 25 others, state media report.

The bus was heading towards the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, about 220km (140 miles) south Cairo, when it came under fire.

No group immediately said it was behind the attack.

But Islamic State (IS) militants have targeted Copts several times in recent months, and vowed to do so again.

Two suicide bombings at churches in the northern cities of Alexandria and Tanta on 9 April left 46 people dead.

Map of Egypt showing location of Minya and Beni Suef provinces

Witnesses told Reuters news agency that the Copts killed on Friday had been travelling to the ancient Monastery of St Samuel, in western Minya, to pray.

Masked men stopped their bus as it drove along a road leading to the monastery with one other bus and a small lorry, and then opened fire, they said.

The health ministry cited witnesses as saying there had been between eight and 10 attackers, and that they had been wearing military uniforms.

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt’s population of 92 million.

Last month’s attacks prompted President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to declare a three-month nationwide state of emergency and promise to do whatever was necessary to confront jihadists.

But many Copts complain that the Egyptian authorities are not doing enough to protect them, says the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo.

There is now a real sense of fear, and a feeling of being hunted, she adds.


What is the Coptic Christian faith?

Egyptian Coptic clerics attend a Friday Mass at the Virgin Mary church on 16 May, 2014

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt. While most Copts live in Egypt, the Church has about a million members outside the country.

Copts believe that their Church dates back to about 50 AD, when the Apostle Mark is said to have visited Egypt. The head of the Church is called the Pope and is considered to be the successor of St Mark.

This makes it one of the earliest Christian groups outside the Holy Land.

The Church separated from other Christian denominations at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) in a dispute over the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ.

The early Church suffered persecution under the Roman Empire, and there were intermittent persecutions after Egypt became a Muslim country. Many believe that continues to this day.

Source: BBC