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The Cable

Dozens of Coptic Christians Gunned Down in Egypt Attack

The latest in a spate of attacks in Egypt against Christians.

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A group of masked gunmen opened fire on Coptic Christians in southern Egypt Friday, killing at least 26 and wounding 25.

As many as 10 attackers in three pickup trucks intercepted buses of Coptic Christians near the city of Minya, some 130 miles south of Cairo, and gunned them down before fleeing the scene. The victims were en route to the Saint Samuel Monastery in Minya province.

Egyptian Health Ministry Spokesman Khaled Mugahed told state television station al-Masriya that men, women, and children were among the dead and injured. Some of the injured are in critical condition.

Egyptian police and security forces immediately launched a manhunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints along roads in the region.

No group immediately claimed credit for the attack, though the Islamic State terrorist group targeted Coptic Christians in a spate of deadly attacks in recent months. In April, suicide bombers attacked two separate churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, an important Christian holiday, leaving 45 dead and over 100 wounded.

The attack prompted Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi to declare the three-month state of emergency allowing authorities to search homes and arrest people without warrant. That sparked concern from international human rights groups, which claim Sisi used the state of emergency to crackdown on political opponents and dissidents.

After the April attack, Pope Francis visited Egypt to forge stronger Muslim-Christian ties and showcase the Vatican’s solidarity with Egypt’s minority Christian population.

Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s total population of some 91 million. They’ve faced increased persecution and violence since the Arab Spring protests forced the resignation of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Photo credit: MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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