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Egypt kills 19 militants after deadly attack on Coptic Christians

Egyptian army claims it killed militants behind attack on Minya's Christian community
Egyptian army killed 19 militants after shootout in Upper Egypt (AFP)

Egyptian security forces killed 19 militants in an operation launched after a deadly attack on the country's Christian minority, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

The militants were suspected members of the cell responsible for killing seven people in a bus carrying worshippers back from a monastery on Friday.

The suspects were killed in a firefight in the desert west of Minya province after security forces pursued them, the ministry said in a statement. It did not say when the firefight took place.

Anger and mourning in Minya, after another attack on Egypt's Christians
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"The terrorist elements opened fire on the forces, who dealt with the source of fire, resulting in a shootout that killed 19 terrorists," the ministry said. 

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Minya attack, which occurred on Friday, though it provided no evidence of its involvement.

The ministry posted on social media pictures of the alleged killed suspects and of the inside of a tent used by them, where printed copies of the IS flag appeared to have been left. 

Christian youth in Minya have been voicing their anger about the attack after their community was targeted by an almost identical attack on the same route a year earlier when 28 people were killed. 

Egypt's Copts has also accused the government of failing to protect the community from attacks.  

"Where were the police and the intelligence apparatus?" Alfouns Saed, 26, a banker, asked Middle East Eye as the city buried the victims. "The terrorists had their fun with the martyrs. They stopped the bus and took the passengers' mobile phones then went inside and shot them."

Egyptian President Fatah Abdel el-Sisi called Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences and held a minute's silence for the victims.