Egyptian security forces claim to have killed some 19 militants they say were responsible for a brutal attack on Coptic Christians last month. Seven followers of Jesus were massacred on Oct. 2 as they traveled to a monastery in an attack shockingly reminiscent of the bus shooting that claimed the lives of 28 Coptics in May 2017. The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for this latest atrocity.
Tragically, six of those killed in the attack came from the same family, according to The New York Times. The Interior Ministry confirmed Sunday that Egyptian forces had killed those responsible during a chase through a mountainous area in desert terrain west of the location where the attack took place.
On Saturday, hundreds of mourners took to the streets on Minya to pay their respects to the deceased. According to the BBC, as the coffins were carried away from the church, desperate cries could be heard:
“With our souls, with our blood, we will defend the cross!” many screamed.
The funeral of 7 #Coptic #Christians killed by Islamist terrorists. Not enough is done to stop the funding of terrorists. State-funders of terrorists are excused based on how much oil or money they have; making Middle East Christians the prey of evil. RIP! (Photos: Coptic Church) pic.twitter.com/jc81iDUTiG
— Iraqi Christian HRC (@iraqschristians) November 3, 2018
“What do these terrorists want? Do they want us to hate Muslims?” asked Michel, 23, who lost one of his neighbors in the attack, according to the BBC. “Should I carry a gun with me when I go to pray or when I’m at home? Because I could die if I go to church.”
But despite the understandable shows of frustration and anger, others sought to publicly declare that they forgive the savage attackers.
“We would like to tell them [the attackers] that we still love them despite what happened,” said Rad Noseer Mitri, priest of Mar Girgis Church. “We have a question though – why are you doing this to us? We do not commit malice towards anyone,”
“We serve our church and nation in complete honesty,” he continued. “We play no role in terrorism or hate. We only play a role in serving our church and country like any other people all around the world.”
U.S. State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, issued a statement in which she said the State Department remained “steadfast in support of Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism and violence against religious communities.”
The U.S. condemns today’s deadly attack on a bus heading to a Coptic Christian monastery in #Egypt. We extend our condolences to the families of these innocent victims. https://t.co/DzvcdrTJz3 pic.twitter.com/7oPkCyMTEO
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) November 2, 2018
Egypt’s State Information Service has since called the attack “a desperate attempt” to strike fear into the Christian population and insisted that it is winning in the fight against the blood-thirsty Islamists. Others, however, have questioned the government’s security tactics, considering the frequency of such horrific massacres against the Coptics.
“The reality is that the Islamic State has successfully executed an attack on the same road, next to the same monastery, one year apart,” commented Timothy E. Kaldas, an analyst with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “That really calls into question the quality of government efforts to enhance security, particularly in Minya, where the Christian minority has been targeted relentlessly.”
In response to the latest bloodshed, Pope Francis lamented the tragic loss of life, noting that the “pilgrims were killed just because they were Christian.”
“I pray for the victims,” he said.