The Egyptian army has launched intensive airstrikes on terrorist groups in Libya in response to the attack by suspected Islamic State militants that killed 28 Christians south of Cairo, the army spokesperson said. Announcing the retaliatory attack, the Egyptian army spokesperson Tamer el-Refae posted a clip, which also included footages of army aircrafts while taking off, on his official Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday. The army operation is still going on, he said in a statement. The airstrikes came after the army gathered information that confirms the terrorists’ participation in the attack. Masked gunmen yesterday attacked a bus and other vehicles taking a group of Coptic Christians to Anba Samuel monastery in the Minya Governorate, 250km south of Cairo, the Ministry of Interior said.
The gunmen were riding in three 4×4 vehicles, it said. Reports said there had been between eight and 10 attackers who were wearing military uniforms. Prior to the army’s announcement, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi has vowed to strike any training camp in Egypt or outside, where terrorists are trained on attacks against Egypt. In his televised addresses, the president said that the army has already hit one of these camps following the attack. The president did not give other details on the strikes or the location, however, the local media then quoted official sources who confirmed that Egypt launched airstrikes on camps belonging to terrorists in Derna city in Libya.
According to the Ministry of Health, at least 28 people were killed and dozens others injured in the attack. The attack comes as the country is still under a three-month state of emergency period following twin attacks on Coptic churches on Palm Sunday last month that killed dozens of people, in attacks claimed by ISIS. There have been a number of attacks on Copts in the country in recent months claimed by Islamic State militants. The Minya attack is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Egypt’s Christians, following the Palm Sunday Suicide Bombings.
On April 9, two suicide bombers hit Saint George’s Cathedral in Tanta and St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, killing and injuring dozens in the deadliest attack against civilians in the country’s recent history. A total of 29 people died in the Tanta explosion and 18 in Alexandria. In December last year, an attack on a Coptic church in Cairo killed 25 people. Coptic Christians, which make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 91 million population, have faced persecution in Egypt, which has spiked since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011.