Islamic State Kills Seven Christians in Egypt Bus Ambush

(Bloomberg) -- Seven people were killed and 12 wounded on Friday when gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying pilgrims from a monastery in southern Egypt, the latest in spate of militant attacks against the Coptic Christian community in recent years.

Two other buses in the convoy transporting people from Saint Samuel the Confessor monastery in the province of Minya back to their home town of Sohag appeared to have escaped being hit, local governor Kasem Hassan said by telephone.

Islamic State, which has an Egyptian branch, claimed responsibility for the ambush on a remote road about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Cairo -- the same spot where 29 Copts were killed in a similar incident last year. Following that killing, Egypt carried out air strikes across the border in Libya against militants it said were responsible.

The killings shattered months of relative calm in Egypt and underscored the challenges facing President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as he tries to revive an economy battered by political turbulence since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

Egyptian security forces launched a months-long military crackdown against militants in northern Sinai earlier this year after 305 people were murdered in a mosque in the deadliest single assault in recent memory.

Sinai militants have declared loyalty to Islamic State, which has waged a campaign against Coptic Christians since 2016, killing dozens in bomb attacks on packed churches during Christmas and Easter services.

After Friday’s shooting, El-Sisi said he remained determined to combat terrorists, calling it a battle for the nation’s “survival.”

Christians, who are widely estimated to make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have long complained of discrimination. They were among El-Sisi’s strongest backers after he pushed the Muslim Brotherhood from power in mid-2013, but that loyalty has been strained by the government’s failure to contain the assaults.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.