By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- The militant Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus loaded with Coptic Christians near the southern city of Minya, which killed at least 29 people, including children.
“A security team of caliphate soldiers set up an ambush for dozens of Christians as they headed to the church of St. Samuel,” the militant group said Saturday, May 27 through its news agency Amaq.
Ten of the 29 victims killed in Friday’s ambush attack were identified as children, church officials said.
The children were reportedly traveling with their parents to pray at an ancient monastery in central Egypt, south of Cairo. Many suffered gunshot wounds to the head and chest, Bishop Makarios, a Coptic clergyman in Minya Province, said.
Three children on board the bus reportedly survived after parents ordered them to hide underneath their seats. Another 25 Coptic Christians were wounded.
Christians said the gunmen were dressed in military attire and armed with automatic weapons and that those targeted were Coptic families from al-Fashn town near Beni Suef governate.
As many as 10 masked attackers in three vehicles stormed the bus and demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith, witnesses said. Then, the gunmen opened fire.
Survivors claimed the killers left behind flyers about Ramadan, regarded a holy month by Muslims.
The attack came on the eve of the start Ramadan. It was the fourth attack targeting the country's Christian minority since December, and it came on the same week of the suicide bombing in Manchester, England, where children were believed to be the target.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has been criticized for not doing enough to protect minority Christians, ordered retaliatory military strikes in Libya in response to the ambush.
(Below Egypt TV footage of air strikes ordered by Egypt's president, story continues)
Sisi said that suspected Islamic State militants attacked the bus.
"I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task," el-Sisi said.
Trump reportedly affirmed U.S. support in a White House statement. “America stands with President Al Sisi and all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy."
Coptic Christians, comprise some 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of some 95 million people.