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At least seven dead in Egypt after attack on bus carrying Coptic Christians

Armed men opened fire on bus in central province of Minya, security official confirms
Egyptians stand outside the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Martyrs in the village of Al-Our in the southern Minya province (AFP)

At least seven Coptic Christians were killed on Friday when armed men opened fire on their bus in Egypt, the region's bishop told AFP.

A security official confirmed the attack in the central province of Minya, adding that there were "dead and wounded". The attack appears to have been carried out along the same route targeted in May last year, when 30 Copts were killed and dozens more injured.

Graphic photographs circulating on the internet show women and children among the injured and killed. The province of Minya has become known for its anti-Christian violence and Egyptian authorities are already being questioned for not securing the route taken by the bus. 

Christian sites of worship across Egypt have been repeatedly targeted, often in attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, prompting the authorities to impose a state of emergency 18 months ago. 

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, condemned the attack on Twitter.

"Despicable and vile attack. Condolences to this beleaguered and long-suffering community," she wrote.

Last month, the Egyptian military sentenced 17 people to death over a series of suicide bombings of churches claimed by IS that left dozens dead.

Seventy-four people were killed in the attacks in 2016 and 2017 targeting Coptic Christians in Cairo, Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta.

The court also sentenced 19 people to life in prison and 10 others to between 10 and 15 years, judicial and security officials said.

A suicide attack on 11 December 2016 on the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church killed 29 in the heart of Cairo.

The following April, 45 people were killed as Christians gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's predominantly Sunni Muslim population.

Since the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, hundreds of police officers, soldiers and civilians have been killed in militant attacks.

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