28 dead, including children, in terror attack on Christians in Egypt

Netanyahu again called for a unified global effort to fight Islamic terror after an attack on Christians in Egypt claimed at least 28 lives, including children.

Masked terrorists riding in three SUVs opened fire Friday on a bus packed with Coptic Christians, including children, south of the Egyptian capital, killing at least 28 people and wounding 22, the Interior Ministry said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the fourth to target Christians since December, but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State (ISIS) group. The attack came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel strongly condemned the attack and sent condolences to President el-Sisi and the Egyptian people.

“There is no difference between the terror of the attack in Egypt and that of attacks in other countries. Terror will be defeated more quickly if all countries work together against it,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated.

The assault happened while the bus was traveling on a side road in the desert leading to the remote monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Maghagha, in Minya governorate, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) south of Cairo, where Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population, the highest ratio in any province.

Security officials quoted witnesses as saying they saw between eight and 10 attackers dressed in military uniforms and wearing masks. The victims were en route from the nearby province of Beni Suef to visit the monastery.

Security and medical officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, said the death toll stood at 28 but feared it could rise. According to Copts United news portal, only three children survived the attack. It was not immediately known how many of the victims were children.

Arab TV stations showed images of a badly damaged bus along a 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.

Ambulances are seen parked around the bus and bodies are lying on the ground, covered with black plastic sheets. Another video purported to show about 10 bodies of mature men lying on the sand on the side of the road with pools of blood around them. Children hysterically screaming could be heard in the background.

The surge in attacks targeting Christians in Egypt has added to the challenges facing President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s government as it struggles to contain the insurgency while pushing ahead with an ambitious and politically sensitive reform program to revive the country’s ailing economy that already has sent the cost of food and services soaring.

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There was no immediate word from the government on how it intends to stop similar attacks from taking place, but it is likely to heighten security around churches, monasteries, schools and annual pilgrimages to remote Christian sites across the country.

On Wednesday, Egypt blocked access to nearly two dozen websites it said were sympathetic to terrorists or spreading their ideology.

“The growing number of these terror attacks is not at all reassuring,” Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic church, told a local television station.

El-Sissi called for a meeting with top aides to discuss Friday’s attack. Last month, he declared a three-month state of emergency following twin suicide bombings that struck two churches north of Cairo on Palm Sunday.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff