CAIRO—Egypt’s Interior Ministry on Sunday said it killed 19 people suspected of involvement in a lethal attack on Coptic Christians two days earlier that showed the continuing challenge posed by Islamist militancy in the country.
The shooting attack on buses carrying Copts returning from a visit to a remote monastery in Egypt’s Minya Province killed seven people on Friday, making it the deadliest assault against Egypt’s Christian minority this year.
The killings, which were claimed by Islamic State, ended nearly a year in which there were no major attacks on Egypt’s mainland. The lull in violence had been regarded as a sign of success by the government of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who promised to restore security to the country after years of political unrest.
Mr. Sisi, a former military chief who came to power following a coup in 2013, is overseeing a battle against Islamic State militants concentrated in the northern Sinai Peninsula, where they continue frequent attacks against security forces.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community, including deadly bombings of churches that have killed dozens of people.
The Interior Ministry said security forces tracked the suspects in the shooting to a hideout in the desert in Egypt’s Minya Province, where it killed 19 of them after returning fire from the group. The ministry didn’t mention any who surrendered or survived, and it didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.
The ministry released images showing the bloody bodies of the dead men lying in the sand, with guns lying at their sides. The photos also showed a rudimentary tent containing basic food items and what appeared to be Islamic State flags printed on paper.
The statement and images followed a pattern in which the Egyptian interior ministry often announces the deaths of suspected militants in police raids. The ministry has made several such announcements this year.
“They go in and they’ve decided not to take any prisoners,” a Western security official tracking events in Egypt said. “It’s a strong sign, if you are part of one of these cells, you don’t get away with your life.”
A funeral for Coptic victims of the attack took place in a church in Minya on Saturday, with hundreds of people carrying the white coffins of six people. The seventh slain person was buried separately.
Write to Jared Malsin at [email protected]
Source : WSJ