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Attack On Coptic Christians Kills At Least 28 In Egypt

Gunmen fired on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya, where many Christians live in Egypt. Here, a photo from 2015 shows Coptic Christians walking outside St. Markos Church in Minya.
Roger Anis

Updated 5:40 p.m ET

Gunmen attacked buses that were taking Egyptian Christians to a monastery Friday, killing at least 28 people and wounding about the same number, according to local reports citing Egypt's government.

In retaliation, NPR's Jane Arraf reports, "President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi says he ordered strikes near Derna in eastern Libya after determining that militant forces there were involved in Friday's attack. [Egypt] hit the same area two years ago after an Islamic State affiliate beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya."

Friday's attack in Egypt was carried out by men riding in three trucks, the interior ministry says, according to the official Middle East News Agency.

The Christians had been traveling to the ancient St. Samuel monastery in Minya, a province some 160 miles south of Cairo along the Nile River. Government officials say they were traveling in two buses and a truck, Jane reports.

"Church officials say children and elderly people are among" the victims, Jane adds.

"Minya province has the largest percentage of Christians in Egypt," Jane says. "Religious tension in some communities in Minya has increased in recent years and in many villages, they are prevented from building churches."

Coptic Christians were targeted by two deadly attacks in northern Egypt last month, in suicide bombings that killed at least 44 people. Those attacks were claimed by ISIS.

The state-owned Middle East News Agency says the attack was condemned by Ahmed el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's Al Azhar mosque.

Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam also denounced the attack, saying, "Those traitors breached all the religious principles and humanitarian values," according to the Middle East News Agency.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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