Christians in Egypt prepare to bury dead a day after attack

The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo’s Shubra al Kheima district was the target of a previous attack

Coptic Christians have gathered in Egypt to take part in the funerals of a group of pilgrims killed by gunmen as they headed to a monastery on Friday. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In December 2016 a bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo killed 30 people and wounds dozens during Sunday Mass.

The Egyptian group linked to the self-styled " Islamic State" (IS) had previously called for attacks on Coptic Christians.

"There is a mix of sadness and pain; sadness as these painful events are being repeated and pain because Copts are part of this homeland and part of its fabric", Bishop Macarius, head of the Coptic diocese in Minya, told mourners at the Prince Tadros Church in Minya, tears streaming down his face. He had earlier said the bus was approaching the monastery.

The bus was reportedly on its way to Minya's Saint Samuel Monastery when the deadly attack occurred.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a statement on his official Facebook page shortly after the attack mourning the victims, vowing to continue the war against terrorism.

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The attack is likely to cast a dark shadow on one of el-Sissi's showpieces - the World Youth Forum - which opens Saturday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and hopes to draw thousands of local and foreign youth to discuss upcoming projects, with Egypt's 63-year-old leader taking center stage.

Embarrassingly, Friday's attack is the second to target pilgrims heading to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in as many years, indicating that security measures put in place since then are either inadequate or have become lax.

"Today's attack on a bus of Coptic Christian pilgrims in Minya, Egypt has again exacted a toll of civilian deaths and injured", the spokesperson said, adding that "the attack was a stark reminder of the security challenges that Egypt is facing", stated Maja Kocijancic, European Union's Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

The Copts are an Orthodox denomination who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's more than 90 million people.

The Interior Ministry said police were pursuing the attackers, who fled the scene. They are the Middle East's largest Christian community and have long complained of persecution and insufficient protection.

Egypt's highest Muslim institution, Al Azhar, condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack" on Friday evening in an official statement in which is lambasted the perpetrators for a lack of "basic human values" and the "killing of of the innocent".

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