A masked group of gunmen opened fire on two buses and a truck carrying Coptic Christians in southern Egypt early Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 25 others, according to the Health Ministry and witnesses.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the attack was carried out by unidentified gunmen in three four-wheel-drive vehicles. No group immediately claims responsibility for Friday’s attack.
Witnesses told Reuters news agency that the group of Coptic Christians, including dozens of children, were traveling in a convoy to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province. They said the gunmen stopped the vehicles and opened fire on the road.
"They used automatic weapons," Essam el-Bedawi, Minya governor, told state media.
Security chiefs had arrived at the scene of the attack and had set up a security perimeter, the spokesman added.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also called a meeting of security officials in the wake of the attack, the state news agency said.
Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country's population, has been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months.
In April, at least 78 people were killed in two separate suicide bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria during Palm Sunday ceremonies. A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 also killed at least 25 people and wounded 49.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for all of the attacks.
Following the Palm Sunday attacks, el-Sissi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt and ordered military special forces to protect vital infrastructure.
The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt's 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack on Friday was intended to destabilize the country.
"I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism," Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit.