Saudi Arabia on Friday condemned a terror attack in Egypt that targeted a bus packed with Coptic Christians, mostly children, and which killed at least 28 people.
Masked militants riding in three SUVs opened fire on the bus, south of the Egyptian capital, killing many and wounding 22, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said.
The Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “Saudi Arabia condemns in the strongest words the armed attack in Egypt, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians. While the Kingdom stands in solidarity with Egypt, we reiterate the importance of rallying all international efforts to eradicate terrorism and extremism.”
No group claimed immediate responsibility for Friday’s attack, the fourth to target Christians since December, but it bore the hallmark of the Daesh terror group.
The attack, on the eve of the start of the holy month of Ramadan, happened while the bus was traveling on a side road in the desert leading to the remote monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Maghagha, Minya governorate, about 220 km south of Cairo.
Egypt’s Air Force launched six airstrikes Friday against “terror camps in Libya” in retaliation for the attack. State television said terrorist training camps in the eastern Libyan city of Derna were hit.
Security officials quoted witnesses as saying they saw between eight and 10 attackers dressed in military uniforms and wearing masks. The bus riders were en route from the nearby province of Beni Suef to visit the monastery.
Security and medical officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the death toll stood at 28 but they feared it could rise further.
According to Copts United news portal, only three children survived the attack. It was not immediately known how many of the victims were children.
“Attacking Christian Egyptians is meeting the terrorists’ mission of discouraging Christian tourists and investors from visiting or investing in Egypt. By doing so, terrorists show that Christians are a real target, claiming that killing Christians is not haram (forbidden),” Mohammed Nosseir, an Egyptian liberal politician, told Arab News on Friday.
“We have been living in this fear of terrorist attacks for almost four years … The frequency of attacks and the number of casualties are increasing, therefore the Egyptian government certainly needs to revisit its strategy of preventing this kind of terrorism from happening,” Nosseir added.
Arab TV stations showed images of a badly damaged bus along a roadside, many of its windows shattered and with numerous bullet holes. Footage of the interior of the bus showed bloodstains on the seats and shattered glass.
Ambulances were seen parked around the bus and bodies lying on the ground, covered with black plastic sheets.
“The growing number of these terrorist attacks is not at all reassuring,” Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told a local television station.