Following Friday’s tragic events in which seven were killed and many were wounded after unknown gunmen shot at a bus transporting a group of Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Minya governorate, Egyptian authorities have dispatched prosecutors at the site of the terrorist attack for investigation.
According to local media outlets, Egypt’s prosecutor-general Nabil Sadek instructed northern Minya and members of Supreme State Security to the site of the attack in a bid to listen to survivor’s testimonies.
The gunmen are still at large, with authorities focusing at finding them.
How did the attack unfold?
Although accounts of the events are numerous, the official spokesperson of the church stated that gunmen ambushed a microbus and bus transporting Coptic Christians worshipers near the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Upper Egypt’s Minya on Friday.
The attack is perceived as a terrorist attack for which the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh in the Arabic language, took responsibility for according to its Amaq news service.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry has claimed that, due to security and safety instructions, the main road leading to the monastery had been closed which prompted the bus use a back road. The gunmen also made use of the ‘back’ secondary road in the largely-remote monastery area to carry out the attack.
Who were the victims?
Gruesome photos and videos of the victims have been circulating on social media. The attack was carried out entirely on civilians. Among the killed were members of a same family of which two children.
The victims were Nady Youssef Shehata (54), Rida Youssef Shehata (51), Kamal Youssef Shehata (20), Poussy Melad Youssef Shehata (41), Asaad Farouk Labeeb (36), Bishoy Rida Youssef Shehata (15) and Marya Kamal Youssef Shehata (12).
On its official Facebook page, the Coptic church also provided a list of 18 wounded, including three children respectively aged 10, 12 and 8 years old. Many are currently being treated for gunshot wounds and cuts.
Funerals prayers for the victims were carried out at the Amir Tadros Church in Minya on Saturday morning.
Local television channels covering the service feature bereaved and angered family members.
What were the reactions?
President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi issued official statements in which he mourned the victims and re-affirmed his effors to combat terrorism on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“I mourn with deep sorrow the martyrs who were killed today by treacherous hands which aim to undermine the firm fabric of the nation, and I wish speedy recovery for the injured. I confirm our determination to continue our efforts to combat dark terrorism and apprehend the culprits. This attack will not weaken the will of our nation in continuing its battle to prevail and build,” the president, who called Pope Tawadros II to express his condolences, added.
The attack unfolded at the very start of the World Youth Forum. The president and the attendees observed a moment of silence for the victims.
Egypt’s highest Muslim institution, Al Azhar, condemned the ”cowardly terrorist attack” on Friday evening in an official statement in which is lambasted the perpetrators for a lack of ”basic human values” and the ”killing of of the innocent”.
Other nations and governments, such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, have also condemned the attack.
In a tweet, British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt expressed the UK’s support to Egypt
Appalled at news of an attack on a bus of Coptic Christians in Minya Governorate, Egypt. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. The UK will continue to support #Egypt and all its people in the fight against terrorism.
— Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) November 2, 2018
The US Embassy in Cairo and the German Ambassador to Egypt also strongly condemned the attack and reaffirmed support to Egypt and its people against terrorism.
“Today’s attack on a bus of Coptic Christian pilgrims in Minya, Egypt has again exacted a toll of civilian deaths and injured,” the spokesperson said, adding that “the attack was a stark reminder of the security challenges that Egypt is facing,” stated Maja Kocijancic, European Union’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
In May 2017, gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in the same area which killed 28 people and wounded 25 others.
Coptic Christians in Egypt, representing near 15% of the overall population, have been consistent targets of Islamist insurgency and terrorism acts.