Cairo, May 27 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.
Masked gunmen in military fatigues yesterday opened indiscriminate fire on a bus and other vehicles taking a group of Coptic Christians to Anba Samuel monastery in the Minya Governorate, 250km south of Cairo.
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.
"Unidentified individuals in three 4x4 vehicles opened fire indiscriminately on a bus, killing a number of Coptic Christians", according to Egypt's Interior Ministry.
Coptic Christians, whose church dates back almost 2000 years, make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's population of 92 million but have been suffering increasing persecution and violence in recent years.
Two deadly church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta took more than 45 lives in April.
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It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the shooting, but Coptic Christians have been targeted by ISIS militants several times in recent years and ongoing violence has triggered a mass exodus of Coptic Christians from some towns.
Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawki Allam also condemned the perpetrators as traitors.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the ambush, which came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt's 1,000-year-old centre of Islamic learning, said the attack was meant to destabilise the country.
Egyptian authorities have been fighting IS-linked militants who have waged an insurgency, mainly focused in the volatile north of the Sinai Peninsula though attacks have taken place also on the mainland. They rallied behind general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in 2013 when he ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood group. IS claimed responsibility and vowed more attacks.
In December, 28 people were killed in a suicide attack at a chapel adjoining Cairo's main Coptic cathedral.
Pope Francis visited Egypt in April to show solidarity with its persecuted Christians and to try to mend relations with Muslims across the region.