CAIRO: Nineteen Daesh militants linked to a deadly terrorist attack on Christian pilgrims have been killed in a shoot-out with Egyptian security forces.
The militants were tracked to a hideout in the desert west of the central province of Minya, the site of last week’s attack on the pilgrims.
The Daesh gunmen opened fire when they realized they were trapped, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
The ministry published photos showing the bodies of the dead militants, along with weapons and ammunition. Other images showed the inside of a tent with a black Daesh banner unfurled on the ground.
Seven people died, six from the same family, and 19 were wounded when Daesh militants opened fire last Friday on pilgrims traveling in two buses near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, 260 km south of Cairo.
Pope Francis referred to the attack while speaking on Sunday at Saint Peter’s in Vatican City.
“I express my pain after the terrorist attack which two days ago hit the Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt,” he said. “I pray for the victims, pilgrims killed just because they were Christian.”
Copts, a Christian minority who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 97 million people, have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by Daesh.
In May 2017, masked gunmen ordered Christians traveling to St. Samuel to get off their buses and recant their faith. The group refused and 29 were shot dead.
Daesh also killed more than 40 people in two church bombings in April 2017, and a Daesh gunman killed nine people in an attack last December on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called on Sunday for Egyptians to fight religious discrimination.
“When an Egyptian falls in a terrorist attack, we suffer and all the people of Egypt suffer,” the president said in an address to a youth forum in Sharm El-Sheikh.
“The state now is tasked with building churches for its citizens, because Christians have the right to worship. If followers of other religions lived in Egypt, we would have built places of worship for them too.”