Egypt on Sunday claimed that its security forces shot dead 19 militants including the gunmen suspected of killing seven Christian pilgrims who were heading to a monastery on Friday, agencies report.
The gun battle started after police surrounded the militants’ desert hideout in the central province of Minya, the site of Friday’s deadly attack.
After the police operation ended, interior ministry released photographs of the slain militants and rifles, shotguns, pistols and an Islamic State flag seized from their tent.
The large group of Coptic Christians were on their way to the monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, above, in two buses when suspected Islamic State terrorists waylaid them and opened fire. Six of a family were among those killed.
The incident comes after twin suicide bombings on Palm Sunday at two Coptic churches left 47 people dead in April this year.
Islamic State or its affiliates have stepped up attacks on minorities, security forces and Sufis after the military toppled the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
In May last year, 29 Christian pilgrims were killed in an ambush by militants in Minya.
In December, a gunman killed at least nine people, including two to three security guards, in front of Mar Mina church in Helwan district, south of Cairo. A bearded attacker wearing ammunition vest was shot at and arrested.
Coptic Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s 93 million people and constitute the largest religious minority in the region. Believers and rights groups like Human Rights Watch say Cairo is not doing enough to protect them.
Hundreds of mourners attending the funeral of victims of Minya carnage were angry on Saturday when a Coptic bishop thanked the government for eliminating the militants.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi condemned the Minya attack and said it showed the desperation of Islamic State affiliates based in Sinai Peninsula.
Cops’ history dates back to AD50 when the Apostle Mark visited Egypt.
Coptic Orthodox Church has its own pope. The present pope is Tawadros II.