Sun, Nov 04, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Egyptian Christians bury dead after bus attack

AP, MINYA, Egypt

Mourners in Minya, Egypt, yesterday carry a coffin during a funeral for Christians killed in an attack on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians yesterday gathered for a funeral service south of Cairo to bid farewell to six of seven people killed the previous day when militants ambushed three buses carrying people on their way to a desert monastery.

The service at Prince Tadros Church in Minya was held amid tight security and presided over by Bishop Anba Makarios, Minya’s top cleric.

He and members of the congregation prayed over a row of six white coffins. Relatives of those killed cried and held each other for support.

All but one of those killed were members of the same family, according to a list of names released by the church, which said a boy and a girl, aged 15 and 12 respectively, were among the dead.

Nineteen were wounded in the attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church said.

The local Islamic State group affiliate, which spearheads militants fighting security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the attack south of Cairo.

It said the attack was revenge for the imprisonment by Egyptian authorities of “our chaste sisters,” but did not elaborate.

The group said that 13 Christians were killed and another 18 wounded, but it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim or reconcile the discrepancy in the number of dead and wounded given by the militants and the church.

Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians, said in a video clip released by the church that the attack would only make the Christians stronger.

“I think that this is a terrorist act which is targeting Egypt through playing the card of the Copts,” said Begemy Nassem Nasr, priest of the church of St Mary in Minya.

“We know that ... [Egyptian] President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is hosting the youth forum and they meant to embarrass him,” he said, referring to the World Youth Forum, which opened yesterday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

A previous attack on people heading to the St Samuel the Confessor Monastery in May last year left nearly 30 people dead.

The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, said Friday’s attackers used secondary dirt roads to reach the buses, who were near the monastery when they were struck.

Only pilgrims have been allowed on the main road leading to the monastery since last year’s attack.

Some Christians in Minya said police negligence was partly to blame for the latest attack, saying that they stopped providing armed escorts for buses headed to the old monastery.

“They should have escorted them. They know it is dangerous to leave them alone on that road,” said Youssef Attya, a 38-year-old health worker from Minya.

The ministry said that police were pursuing the attackers, who fled the scene on Friday.

Earlier yesterday, outside the main hospital in Minya, dozens of family members waited until the early hours to receive the bodies for burial.

An elderly woman wept for her dead son and wailed as she sat on the ground outside the hospital morgue.

“He was the best child... I’ll never see him again,” she said, as other mourners rushed to carry a coffin to an ambulance to be taken to the church.

Security forces remained on the alert outside the hospital, while roads were blocked to the scene of the shooting.

Makarios visited the hospital to try to comfort mourners.

Another Coptic cleric, who asked not to be named, told reporters that about 24 people had escaped the attack unharmed and spent the night at a church in a nearby village.

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