Hours after gunmen opened fire on a convoy of vehicles carrying Coptic Christian worshippers to a desert monastery in Egypt, killing 28, the Egyptian warplanes carried out six bombing strikes targeting camps near Derna in Libya where Cairo believes militants responsible for the deadly attack were trained, Egyptian military sources said quoted by Reuters.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said directed strikes against what he called terrorist camps, declaring in a televised address that states that sponsored terrorism would be punished. He also vowed to continue striking bases used to train militants and who carry out terrorist attacks in his country, whether those camps were inside or outside the country.
“The terrorist incident that took place today will not pass unnoticed,” Sisi said. “We are currently targeting the camps where the terrorists are trained.”
“Egypt will not hesitate in striking any camps that harbor or train terrorist elements whether inside Egypt or outside Egypt,” the al-Ahram news agency quoted Sisi as saying.
The strikes took place around sundown, hours after the deadly attack. Christians, who account for about 10% of Egypt’s population of 80 million, have become the victims of an intensifying campaign of bombings and shootings masterminded by ISIS, which is trying to expand its footprint in Egypt. In April, at least 37 people were killed and more than 100 injured in two separate bombings at Christian Coptic churches packed with worshippers in northern Egypt one week before Coptic Easter.
Following the Libyan incursion, Egyptian armed forces released a short video which was aired on state television following the president’s speech. The voiceover in the army video said its air force carried out strikes on targets in Libya “after confirming their involvement in planning and committing the terrorist attack in Minya governorate on Friday.” Egypt’s military said that the air strikes are ongoing, local media reports.
Egyptian security forces have destroyed some 300 vehicles over the past two months which attempted to cross the border from Libya in order to bring in “evil,” according to Sisi, who emphasized the huge efforts his country has undertaken to battle terrorism.
The Egyptian president also directly addressed Donald Trump to take the lead in fighting terrorism. “I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task,” he said.
On Friday President Trump condemned the attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christians, denouncing the “thuggish ideology” and “evil organizations of terror.” The White House issued the following statement earlier in the day:
Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization, and it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil. This merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls. Wherever innocent blood is spilled, a wound is inflicted upon humanity. But this attack also steels our resolve to bring nations together for the righteous purpose of crushing the evil organizations of terror, and exposing their depraved, twisted, and thuggish ideology.
America also makes clear to its friends, allies, and partners that the treasured and historic Christian Communities of the Middle East must be defended and protected. The bloodletting of Christians must end, and all who aid their killers must be punished.
America stands with President Al Sisi and all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy.
Civilization is at a precipice—and whether we climb or fall will be decided by our ability to join together to protect all faiths, all religions, and all innocent life. No matter what, America will do what it must to protect its people.
No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on the bus.