Egypt strikes terror camps after attack on Coptic Christians
The Egyptian military has launched airstrikes against "terrorist training camps" in neighboring Libya in retaliation to an attack on Coptic Christians. At least 28 people were dead and 25 wounded on May 26 after gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said he won't "hesitate to strike terrorist camps anywhere."
Bus intercepted by gunmen, victims shot at point-blank range
Officials said the bus was traveling to a monastery in Minya when it was attacked by gunmen on a desert road around 135 km away from Cairo. Eyewitnesses said the gunmen were wearing military uniforms and fled in 4X4 vehicles. Officials said the gunmen "fired indiscriminately" and that several of the victims were shot at point-blank range.
Egypt has launched similar airstrikes in the past also
Egyptian military sources said six airstrikes were conducted against camps near Derna, Libya, where the perpetrators of the attack were believed to be trained. So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In 2015, Egypt had launched airstrikes against ISIS in Libya after militants released a video showing 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded.
Attacks on Coptic Christians have spiked since Mubarak's ouster
Coptic Christians constitute around 10% of Egypt's 91 million population. Dozens of them have been killed in sectarian violence which has spiked since former dictator Hosni Mubarak ouster in 2011. The attack comes as Egypt continues to remain under a three-month state of emergency following ISIS suicide bombings in two separate Coptic churches on April 9, 2017, which left 45 people dead.
ISIS had declared Egyptian Christians as their "favourite prey"
Following last month's attack, several Coptic Christians in Egypt refused to celebrate the Easter holiday. Pope Francis visited Egypt last month in a show of support for Christians who have been targeted increasingly by Islamist terrorists. Following his visit, ISIS vowed to step up attacks on Christians. In December 2016, ISIS had dubbed Egyptian Christians as their "favourite prey."
Attack undermines Egyptian government's efforts to improve security
The latest attack on Coptic Christians undermines the government's attempts at improving security especially after last month's bombings. It was met with protests in in Minya. "This proves that applying the state of emergency doesn't provide safety and Coptic Christians are still heavily targeted," said Cairo-based religious affairs researcher Ishak Ibrahim. Muslim leaders also condemned the attack, which came a day before Ramzan.