Egypt Security Forces Kill 19 Involved in Attack on Copts

(Bloomberg) -- Egyptian security forces killed 19 militants suspected in a weekend attack on a busload of Coptic Christians, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

Photos released by the ministry showed several of the suspected militants dead on the ground, as well as personal belongings including posters bearing the logo of Islamic State.

The attack on Friday, claimed by the jihadist group, left seven dead and 12 others wounded. Officials said the gunmen opened fire on the bus carrying pilgrims from a monastery in the southern province of Minya. It occurred near the same spot where 29 Copts were killed in a similar incident last year.

Islamic State has repeatedly targeted Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority with a wave of bombings and other attacks, including a similar assault near the same monastery last year in which 29 pilgrims were killed. Copts have repeatedly complained that the government has not done enough to protect them and that they are the targets of discrimination in a country that’s about 90 percent Muslim.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, speaking to a youth forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, reaffirmed the right of Egyptians to worship as they please.

The weekend attack shattered months of relative calm and highlighted the challenges confronting President El-Sisi, who has led a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters while trying to revive an economy left in shambles following the 2011 uprising against then-leader Hosni Mubarak.

For more than a year, security forces have been on a campaign to purge the restive Sinai Peninsula of militants, including fighters loyal to Islamic State. Earlier this year, militants killed 305 people in a mosque in the northern part of the Sinai.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.