Ten of the 29 victims killed in Friday’s ambush attack on a bus transporting Christians to a monastery south of Cairo were identified as children, a top bishop told The Wall Street Journal.
As many as 10 masked attackers in three SUVs stormed the bus dressed in military uniforms and demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith, witnesses said. Then, the gunmen opened fire.
The children were traveling with their parents to pray at an ancient monastery in central Egypt. Many suffered gunshot wounds to the head and chest, Bishop Makarios, a Coptic clergyman in Minya Province, told The Journal. Three children on board the bus reportedly survived.
Survivors claimed the killers left behind flyers about the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins Friday evening. Local media also reported that the attackers were recording video themselves.
The attack came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month. It was the fourth attack targeting the country’s Christian minority since December, and it came on the same week of the suicide bombing in Manchester, where children were believed to be the target.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Friday ordered retaliatory military strikes in Libya in response to the ambush. Sisi said that suspected ISIS militants attacked the bus.
“I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task,” el-Sisi said.
Trump reportedly affirmed U.S. support in a White House statement. “America stands with President Al Sisi and all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy.”
The airstrikes hit bases in Libya where the attackers had trained, the country’s military said.
Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, repeatedly have cried out for help from discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country’s majority Muslim population. Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s 93 million people.
Ayman Ezzat, a rickshaw driver, told The Journal that blamed the massacre on el-Sisi, saying the president hadn’t done enough to protect the Christians.
“Our lives have turned into hell,” he said. “I’m a Copt and I curse myself everyday for bringing [Mr. Sisi] to power. He failed us. He sold us.”