At least 24 people have been killed and 27 others injured in an attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in southern Egypt, according to the Health Ministry.
The ministry’s spokesman, Khaled Megahed, said the injured are being transported to several hospitals near the city of Minya.
The bus was carrying around 45 people and was heading to Anba Samuel monastery when armed men opened fire on the vehicle, a security source said.
Yet, a church official told Al-Ahram newspaper that most of those on the bus were children as it was a regular trip for the monastery.
Ten armed men wearing an army-like outfit obstructed the bus before opening fire on its passengers, witnesses told the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, adding that there were children among those killed.
Minya is one of few southern cities with a large population of Copts.
Egypt has seen a spate of attacks since 2013, when the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader, following mass protests against his divisive rule.
Several of the attacks have targeted Christians and churches as armed groups blame them for supporting the army.
In April, 46 people were killed in two suicide bombings, claimed by Daesh “the Islamic State extremist militia”, targeting two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria.
The bombings prompted Egypt to declare a nationwide state of emergency for three months.
In December, 28 people were killed in a suicide attack at a chapel adjoining Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral. That attack was also claimed by Islamic State.
Egypt has the largest Christian community in the region, accounting for around 10 per cent of the country’s 93 million mostly Muslim population.
By Walid Zaki and Nehal El-Sherif, original source