The Egyptian interior ministry said Sunday that its forces killed 19 militants who it says were involved in Friday’s deadly attack on Christian worshipers in the southern province of Minya.
The ministry said the men were killed in a shootout in a mountainous area in the western part of the province. Security forces tracked the men back to that area following the attack that killed seven Coptic Christian worshipers on their way to a monastery, the ministry said.
The ministry posted pictures of bodies it claimed were dead militants and the weapons found in their possession.
Friday’s attack on Coptic Christians was just the latest incident of violence against the religious minority, which is the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Last year, at least 28 people were killed when gunmen wearing fatigues and face masks opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday for the funeral of the seven people who were killed Friday when gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians, Egyptian state-run media outlet Ahram Online reported.
The group was heading to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, located south of Cairo in the western desert.
Six of the victims were from the same family, according to Ahram. A dozen people also were injured in the attack, it said.
ISIS had claimed responsibility for Friday’s bus attack on Coptic Christians. In a statement published on the ISIS-affiliated Amaq media agency it said, “the ambush that targeted a bus carrying Coptic Christians, on the road to the Monastery of Saint Samuel in Minya, was carried out by Islamic state fighters.”
The statement was published by several ISIS channels on Telegram, a messaging app.
The group provided no evidence to back up its claims. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the claim.
The US State Department condemned the attack in a statement Friday.
“We extend our condolences to the families of these innocent victims,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We remain steadfast in our support of Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism and violence against religious communities.”