Gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Thursday (25 May), killing at least 28 people including children and wounding 25. The bus was on its way to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor about 135 kilometers south of Cairo. No terrorist group has claimed attack yet but the Islamic State (ISIS) has targeted Copts a few times in recent months. The most recent attacks claimed the lives of 46 people at Palm Sunday services in the cities of Alexandria and Tanta. Another suicide bombing killed 29 people in December and a Christian community was forced to flee the town of el-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula after a series of gun attacks in February.
The attack on the bus was carried out by 8 to 10 gunmen wearing military uniforms. They stopped the bus on a desert road near Adwa police station on the border between Beni Suef and Minya provinces. Minya Province Bishop Makarios said that many of the victims were killed at point blank range. The European Union expressed its condolences to the friend and families of the victims, urging the Egyptian authorities to hold accountable those responsible.
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92-million population and the Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt. Most Copts live in Egypt but the Church also has about a million members outside the North African country. Coptic Christianity dates back to about 50 AD when the Apostle Mark is believed to have visited Egypt. The head of the Church is called the Pope and is considered to be the successor of St Mark. The Coptic Church separated from the rest of Christianity at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) in a dispute over the divine nature of Jesus Christ.