Christians in Egypt bury their dead after the attack

Christians in Egypt bury their dead after the attack

MINYA, Egypt (AP) – Hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians gathered Saturday for a memorial service south of Cairo to say good-bye to six out of seven people killed the day before as militants arrested three buses with pilgrims on their way to a secluded Desert monastery in an ambush.

The service at Prince Tadros Church in Minya City was conducted under strict security and was led by Anya Makarios, Minya's chief cleric. He and members of the congregation prayed and sang over a series of six white coffins.

Relatives of the victims wept and supported each other for support.

All but one of them were members of the same family, according to a list of the names of victims released by the church, according to which one boy and one girl aged 15 or 12 were among the dead. According to the Coptic Orthodox Church, a total of 19 were injured in the attack.

The local member organization of the Islamic State, which leads fighters fighting against security forces on the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, assumes responsibility for the attack south of Cairo. He said the attack was revenge for the detention of "our chaste sisters" by the Egyptian authorities, but was not detailed.

The IS affiliate claimed that 13 Christians had been killed and another 18 wounded. However, it was not immediately possible to independently verify the allegation or to make up for the discrepancy between the number of deaths and injuries reported by the group and the church.

A relative of a dead Christian mourns during the funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After militants ambushed Three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery killed seven and wounded 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A relative of a dead Christian mourns during the funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After militants ambushed Three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery killed seven and wounded 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A relative of a dead Christian mourns during the funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After militants ambushed Three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery killed seven and wounded 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

The attack probably cast a dark shadow over one of the showpieces of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi – the World Youth Forum – which opens Saturday in the Red Sea in Sharm el-Sheikh. The forum attracts thousands of young people from home and abroad to discuss a wide range of topics. The 63-year-old Egyptian is at the center.

The Islamic State has repeatedly promised to call the Egyptian Christians a punishment for their support of el-Sissi. In 2013, as defense minister, El-Sissi led an Islamist president whose one-year rule turned out to be ambiguous. The group has since December 2016 blamed itself for a series of deadly attacks on Christians.

El-Sissi, who has made security one of his top priorities since taking office in 2014, wrote on his Twitter account that Friday's attack aimed to damage the nation's "solid fabric" and promised to fight against to continue the terrorism. He later expressed his condolences when talking to Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christians in Egypt and a close ally of the Sissi.

In a grim message of his own, Tawadros said in a video clip published by the church that the last attack would only strengthen Christians.

"I think that this is a terrorist act directed against Egypt by playing the map of the Copts," said Begemy Nassem Nasr, priest of the Church of St. Mary in Minya. "We know that … President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi hosted the Youth Forum and they wanted to embarrass him."

It is embarrassing that Friday's attack is the second to target pilgrims who have been going to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery for many years, indicating that the security measures taken since then are either inadequate or lax. The previous attack in May 2017 killed nearly 30 people.

It was the latest in a series of IS attacks against Christians. In earlier years churches were approached with followers in Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and Tanta in the Nile delta north of the capital, with at least 100 people died.

The attacks led to stricter security in Christian places of worship and in institutions connected to the church, where metal detectors and armed policemen are regularly deployed. They also underlined the vulnerability of Christians in a minority in a country where many Muslims have been religiously conservative and less tolerant of non-Muslims since the 1970s.

The Home Office, which oversees the police, said the attackers on Friday used secondary dirt roads to reach the buses carrying the pilgrims who were near the monastery at the time of the attack. On the main road that leads to the monastery, only pilgrims have been admitted since the attack of last year.

Some Christians in Minya said the neglect of the police was partly responsible for the last attack, arguing that they no longer provide armed escorts for the pilgrims who drive to the old monastery.

Youssef Attya, a 38-year-old minyan health worker, said, "You should have accompanied her, you know it's dangerous to leave her alone on this road."

The Interior Ministry said the police were following the assailants who had fled the scene.

Egypt's Christians, which account for about 10 percent of the nation's 100 million people, complain of discrimination in the majority Muslim country. Christian activists say that the church's alliance with el-Sissi has provided some protection for the old community, but has not stopped frequent discrimination that has led to violence against Christians, especially in rural Egypt.

In Minya, the scene of Friday, Christians represent the highest percentage of the population – about 35 percent – of all the Egyptian provinces. In Minya, most of the acts of violence, such as attacks on churches and Christian homes and businesses, take place.

There, Christians blame the local police for being lenient to the Muslims who attack them, complaining that in their quest for peace between the two communities, they insist on resolving sectarian disputes through tribal reconciliation talks rather than through the rule of law.

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Hendawi reported from Cairo.

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Coffins of the killed Coptic Christians are seen during their funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Optical Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead the following day Militants stormed three buses of Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery, killing seven and wounding 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Coffins of the killed Coptic Christians are seen during their funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Optical Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead the following day Militants stormed three buses of Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery, killing seven and wounding 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Coffins of the killed Coptic Christians are seen during their funeral service in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Optical Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead the following day Militants stormed three buses of Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery, killing seven and wounding 19th (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After the militants attacked three buses with Christian pilgrims to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After the militants attacked three buses with Christian pilgrims to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day After the militants attacked three buses with Christian pilgrims to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest spreads incense during the funeral for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to take their dead one day after the fighters to bury raids on three buses that brought Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest spreads incense during the funeral for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to take their dead one day after the fighters to bury raids on three buses that brought Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest spreads incense during the funeral for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to take their dead one day after the fighters to bury raids on three buses that brought Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Home Office say that Islamic militants raid three buses of Christian pilgrims have gone to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where at least seven people were killed and a dozen more injured. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Home Office say that Islamic militants raid three buses of Christian pilgrims have gone to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where at least seven people were killed and a dozen more injured. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

Relatives of the killed Coptic Christians grieve during their funeral in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Home Office say that Islamic militants raid three buses of Christian pilgrims have gone to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where at least seven people were killed and a dozen more injured. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A man is shouting beside a bus carrying Coptic Christians who were attacked in Cairo on Friday, November 2, 2018. Islamic militants raided a bus that killed Christian pilgrims on their way to death on the way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital. The Home Office said at least seven and wounded a dozen more (Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church via AP).

A man is shouting beside a bus carrying Coptic Christians who were attacked in Cairo on Friday, November 2, 2018. Islamic militants raided a bus that killed Christian pilgrims on their way to death on the way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital. The Home Office said at least seven and wounded a dozen more (Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church via AP).

A man is shouting beside a bus carrying Coptic Christians who were attacked in Cairo on Friday, November 2, 2018. Islamic militants raided a bus that killed Christian pilgrims on their way to death on the way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital. The Home Office said at least seven and wounded a dozen more (Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church via AP).

Coptic Christians sing slogans during a protest after an attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery in Minya (Egypt) on Friday, November 2, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Interior Ministry say that militant Islamists have done so on three buses with Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. At least seven people were killed and a dozen injured. (AP Photo / Mohammed Hakim)

Coptic Christians sing slogans during a protest after an attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery in Minya (Egypt) on Friday, November 2, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Interior Ministry say that militant Islamists have done so on three buses with Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. At least seven people were killed and a dozen injured. (AP Photo / Mohammed Hakim)

Coptic Christians sing slogans during a protest after an attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery in Minya (Egypt) on Friday, November 2, 2018. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Interior Ministry say that militant Islamists have done so on three buses with Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. At least seven people were killed and a dozen injured. (AP Photo / Mohammed Hakim)

A relative of a murdered Coptic Christian grieves during a funeral in the church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya Minya on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to send their dead one day after the fighters Buried three buses of Christian pilgrims on the way to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A relative of a murdered Coptic Christian grieves during a funeral in the church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya Minya on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to send their dead one day after the fighters Buried three buses of Christian pilgrims on the way to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A relative of a murdered Coptic Christian grieves during a funeral in the church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya Minya on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to send their dead one day after the fighters Buried three buses of Christian pilgrims on the way to a remote desert monastery. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest performs a funeral service for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day after the fighters raided three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest performs a funeral service for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day after the fighters raided three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

A priest performs a funeral service for the slain Christians in the Church of the Great Martyr Prince Tadros in Minya (Egypt) on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya were preparing to bury their dead one day after the fighters raided three buses carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery. Seven people were killed and 19 were wounded. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)

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