Gunmen kill Coptic Christians on pilgrimage to Egypt's St Samuel monastery

Gunmen kill Coptic Christians on pilgrimage to Egypt's St Samuel monastery

Although Egypt's army and police launched a crackdown on the militant groups in February, some of the Christian mourners said security should be tighter.

Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday for the funeral of seven people killed when unknown gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt's Minya governorate, Egyptian state-run media outlet Ahram Online reported.

Some Christians in Egypt weep uncontrollably as 7 dead members killed in militant attack are buried.

The local Islamic State affiliate which spearheads militants fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, according to SITE, a USA -based group that monitors and translates militants' statements.

A year earlier, a suicide bomber killed nearly 30 worshipers at a church in Cairo located in the Saint Mark's Cathedral complex, the seat of the Coptic papacy.

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

Copts, a Christian minority that make up 10 percent of Egypt's 96 million people, have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by militants.

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Outside Egypt, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the archbishop of Britain's Coptic Orthodox Church were among those condemning the attack and expressing condolences to Egyptians.

It is the second attack on pilgrims heading to the St Samuel the Confessor monastery in as many years.

A number of people were also injured in the attack in the Minya region, south of the capital Cairo.

A similar attack involving the same monastery took place in May 2017, when gunmen driving three 4x4 wheelers shot at a bus carrying Coptic pilgrims to the same location, killing 30 people.

"This latest attack shows that the anti-ISIS (IS) campaign has not yet succeeded in Egypt, despite obvious efforts by the authorities to tackle it in different parts of the country", said H. A. Hellyer, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London. They are the Middle East's largest Christian community and have long complained of persecution and insufficient protection.

The US State Department condemned the attack in a statement Friday. Local church officials in Minya province put the death toll at 10, but the higher figure could not be confirmed.

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