International News

New ISIS Attack on Egyptian Copts Mirrors Previous Strike

By Shady Negm, Special to The Tablet

CAIRO – On the same road and with the same style of last year’s attack, members of ISIS killed seven Coptic Christians in an attack on a bus carrying worshippers on their way back from a visit to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in El Minya Governorate, 250 km south of Cairo.

The massacre on Nov. 2 is a repeat of an attack in the same location in May 2017 when terrorists killed 28 Christians on their way to the monastery. Six of those killed were from the same family, according the Coptic Church’s statement about the attack.

Three brothers, Kamal, Reda and Nady Yousef Shehata – 20, 51 and 54 years old, respectively, were killed along with Kamal’s daughter, Maria, 12; Reda’s son Bishoy, 15, and Bousy Milad, 41. The driver Assad Farouk, 36, was also killed. There are 18 injured persons among them children who were on the same bus.

On Friday evening, an Egypt-based branch of Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News Agency, saying the attack was in response to the jailing of affiliated female fighters by the Egyptian government. According to the Coptic Church’s statement in Minya, there were three buses carrying worshippers. The gunmen shot at two buses, stopping one of them, while the third bus was able to drive away.

Wave of Anger

The attack triggered a wave of criticism and anger against the Egyptian government as it failed to protect its Coptic minority, especially as the attack occurred in the same place of last year’s massacre. On Sunday, security forces in Minya dispersed a protest march of Coptic youth against the attacks on Christians in Egypt.

Last Saturday, during the funeral Mass for the victims, mourners shouted against the local authorities when Coptic Bishop Anba Makarios of Al Minya thanked provincial officials for issuing permits to conduct public funerals.

Safwat Samaan of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information wrote on his Facebook page, “I can’t understand why priests used to thank the officials during funerals of those killed in terrorist attacks … “You have to respect their families’ feelings… what happened is a result of the failure of those officials to protect the people… Your thanks is a kind of bondage.”

Coptic Solidarity, a non-governmental organization defending minorities in Egypt, strongly maintained that this violence is not perpetrated by foreign terrorists as the Egyptian government would like the world to believe, but is it homegrown, created by a culture of hate and impunity within Egypt.

Amid this anger, some human rights activists accused the government of ordering the local media not to highlight the attack and victims. Hossam Bahgat, human rights activist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, wrote on his Twitter account that “what we have seen is a result of security apparatuses control on local media.

“Central orders were issued not to provide broad coverage for the killing of Copts and to deal with the attack as a normal daily incident, unfortunately all media has complied.”

Rights Commissions Condemns Acts

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) condemned the terrorist act targeting Christian citizens. It also condemned the continued failure of Egyptian authorities in protecting the lives of Egyptian citizens in incidents targeting Christians.

With regard to incidents in which terrorist groups targeted Christians, ECRF has monitored 10 terrorist attacks since 2014, where at least 114 Christians were killed, including the targeting and killing of eight Christians from El Arish in early 2017. That resulted in an enforced displacement of Christian citizens from the city of El Arish in Northern Sinai – an incident that was the first of its kind in modern history.

The commission pointed out that those statistics are what its researchers have been able to monitor or document, and verify in terms of the validity, details and consequences of the occurrences. However, the statistics do not necessarily represent the complete inventory of what events actually that took place during that period, only the ones for which there is reliable information.

On Sunday, the Egyptian interior ministry announced that security forces killed the 19 Islamist militants accused of carrying out Friday’s attack. The ministry posted images of bodies and a tent in which the militants were said to have been hiding.