International desk – At least 26 people were killed after gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, media reports said on Friday.
The attack carried out by gunmen wearing military uniform near Adwa police station when the bus was in a small convoy stopped in a desert.
The number of attackers were between eight and 10 gunmen, officials said citing witnesses. The gunmen then fired at the bus with automatic weapons before fleeing in three 4×4 vehicles, they added.
The Copts killed on Friday had been travelling to St Samuel’s monastery to pray.
The bus was travelling to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor, 135km (85 miles) south of Cairo, from Minya province when it came under fire, according to BBC report.
No group immediately said it was behind the attack.
But Islamic State (IS) militants have targeted Copts several times in recent months, and vowed to do so again.
Two suicide bombings at Palm Sunday services at churches in the northern cities of Alexandria and Tanta on 9 April left 46 people dead.
Another suicide bombing at a church in the capital in December killed 29 people, while a Christian community was forced to flee the town of el-Arish in the northern Sinai peninsula after a series of gun attacks in February.
A Christian official in Minya, Ibram Samir, told the New York Times that children had been on the bus and were among the dead.
Samir said a pick-up truck carrying workmen at the monastery was also in the convoy. It is not clear whether it was targeted as well.
Minya governor Essam al-Bedawi said security forces had arrived at the scene and were fanning out along the road to the monastery and setting up checkpoints.
Last month’s attacks prompted President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to declare a three-month nationwide state of emergency and promise to do whatever was necessary to confront jihadist militants, most of whom are based in northern Sinai.
But many Copts complain that the Egyptian authorities are not doing enough to protect them.