Funerals were held over the weekend in Egypt for seven Christians ambushed and killed on Friday (Nov. 2) in Islamist attacks.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral service in Minya for six Coptic Christians from the same family killed when Islamist gunmen ambushed their microbus near a desert monastery. A 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl were among those killed when the terrorists stopped their microbus from Minya and opened fire, rights activists said.
A seventh Christian, Asaad Farouk Labib Ghaly, was also killed. His 34-year-old wife, four children and others mourned him at a funeral on Friday (Nov. 2) at a church in Sohag, about 392 kilometers (244 miles) south of Cairo, the activists said.
The Coptic Orthodox Church reported an additional 19 Christians were wounded in the attacks, which took place near St. Samuel the Confessor monastery, just west of the town of Al-Idwa and about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Cairo. On one of the attacked buses, six of 28 members of a family reportedly traveling to a baptism of one of its children were injured.
An Egypt-based Islamic State (IS) affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for Egypt's imprisonment of "our chaste sisters," without elaborating. The group claimed that 13 people were killed and 18 wounded.
Egypt's Interior Ministry reportedly said the attackers used dirt roads to reach the buses carrying the Christians. Only those visiting the monastery are allowed to use the main road to it since a like attack in May 2017 killed 30 people; after that assault, the government had reportedly provided armed escorts for those visiting the monastery but later dropped the security measure.
At the funeral service for the six family members at Prince Tadros church in the city of Minya, Coptic Orthodox Bishop-General of Minya Anba Makarios presided.
"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 Makarios reportedly said, promising that the church would "not forget the promises of officials, including the president of the republic, that the criminals will be punished."
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a minute's silence for the victims, and called Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences.
Besides Asaad Farouk Labib Ghaly, the Coptic Orthodox Church identified the six family members slain as Kamal Yousef Shehata, Reda Yousef Shehata, Nady Yousef Shehata, Bishoy Reda Yousef Shehata, Maria Kamal Yousef Shehata and Bousy Milad Yousef Shehata.
The government on Sunday (Nov. 4) claimed that security forces had killed 19 Islamist militants from a cell believed to be responsible for the attack on Christians near the monastery. The government statement said the security forces surrounded the militants after a chase in a mountainous area west of Minya governorate and engaged them in a firefight.
Egypt ranked 17th on Christian support organization Open Doors' 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.