Egypt Says Perpetrators of Attack Against Christians Killed

Egyptian security forces kill 19 militants in desert shootout

The suspects were part of a group believed to have shot dead seven pilgrims near the desert cemetery of Saint Samuel in Minya on Friday, the ministry added.

The ministry's statement said the militants were tracked to a hideout in the mountainous desert west of the central province of Minya before police killed them in a shootout.

Islamis State claimed responsibility for the attack as stated in the group's Amaq news agency.

The ministry said the suspects were on the run from security forces when national security intelligence identified their location.

The ministry published photographs purporting to show the dead bodies of the militants and said the men had opened fire when security forces surrounded them.

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Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his sorrow for the victims of the attack on the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt on Friday.

Copts, a Christian minority that make up 10 percent of Egypt's 97 million people, have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by IS jihadists. Some 28 people were killed.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for citizens to battle against religious discrimination.

There had been a lull in major attacks since December when a gunman attacked a church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo.

They have found a measure of protection under el-Sissi which, according to Christian activists, did not extend to members of the ancient community in rural regions where radical Muslims whip up anti-Christian sentiments, often over the construction or restoration of churches or romantic relationships between Christians and Muslims.

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