Armed militants attacked two vehicles carrying Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate on Friday morning.
Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told Mada Masr that 26 people have died as a result of the attack so far, while 25 have been injured.
The vehicles were traveling along a small road that connects the Western Desert Road with St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery when armed militants stopped the truck and opened fire on the passengers, according to Ishaq Ibrahim, who works on religious freedoms at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and spoke to a priest at the monastery.
In a statement detailing the attack, the Interior Ministry asserted that “unidentified assailants in three SUVs randomly opened fire on a bus carrying a number of Coptic citizens as it drove on the Western Desert Road.”
Bishop Ermia, the general bishop and president of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center, has put the death count at 35 and said that the attack targeted two buses transporting school children to the monastery.
Those wounded in the attack have been transferred to nearby hospitals in Adwa, Maghagha, Beni Mazar and Matay, from which they will subsequently transported to Maahad Nasser Hospital in Cairo, according to a Health Ministry statement.
The Minya representative in Parliament Magdy Malak told Mada Masr that he is contact with with church officials and confirmed that at least 25 people have died as a result of the attack so far.
“Neither Muslim, nor Christian approves of the Minya incident, which targets stability in Egypt,” said Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb in a statement released through the institution’s official Facebook page. The religious leader, who is currently in Germany, called for national unity in the face of terrorism.
There have been a number of attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt in recent months. On Palm Sunday, the Islamic State attacked the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Church in Alexandria, killing 19 and 29 respectively. In December, they bombed the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo, killing 25 dead and leaving dozens wounded. In the aftermath of the Palm Sunday bombings, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency.
Minya has been the site of repeated sectarian violence since the violent dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The Islamic State-affiliated Al-Nabaa magazine published an interview at the beginning of May with the purported leader of the organization in Egypt, who asserted the the Islamic State will continue to target Copts.