Egypt—Friday 26th, 2017. A handful of masked men lay in wait where the busy highway and the sandy back road leading to the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor intersect. Located in the Minya Governorate, 120 miles south of Cairo, the Monastery is one of Coptic Christianity’s holiest shrines. One-tenth of Egypt’s 92 million population is Christian.
Consequently, sites of worship such as this are always busy—even though tourism, a staple for the Egyptian economy, has suffered since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the fact that Minya is 120 miles south of Cairo.
The black-clad men stopped a convoy of two buses and a pickup truck. With guns in hand, they demanded that the pilgrims denounced their Christian faith. The travelers refused. Thirty were killed, including one American from Chicago, with shots in the head and another 23 injured.
And they will continue.
“Anyone sponsoring terrorism will be punished no matter where they are,” Colonel Tamer al-Refaei, an Egyptian military spokesman, said on Monday, “we have not announced the cessation of military operations against terrorist training camps.”
But with the holy month of Ramadan—when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during the day—in effect, and, according to our sources, no intention by the Egyptian Islamic religious authority to issue an absolution to troops doing the fighting, the military’s effectiveness is doubtful.
This attack is the latest in a string that has claimed over 100 lives since December. On 9 April, St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria were observing Palm Sunday when suicide bombers attacked. Thirty-seven people were killed and dozens injured in the deadliest strike against civilians in Egypt’s recent history.
President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi imposed a three-month state of emergency, with the option to extend it if necessary.
“We live in security,” Nasser Hussien, a local reporter, told SOFREP.
Since 2011, the Egyptian military has been fighting a costly insurgency against the terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula in the west.
This apparent second front from Libya in the east will put further pressure on President Sisi’s already troubled government. Economic mismanagement has caused his popularity to plump from 90% to 60% since assuming office amidst the “Sisi-mania” that followed the Muslim Brotherhood’s defenestration in 2014.
But the state of emergency appears to be an honest measure to deal with the uncertainty and not an attempt by Sisi to further strengthen his position, as opponents have accused him of doing. “The Egyptian military is doing a great effort, both financially and operationally, to protect the country,” a third-party military source that wished to remain anonymous told SOFREP.
Featured image courtesy of CNN.