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May 27, 11:47 AM EDT

Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack


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AP Photo/Amr Nabil

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MINYA, Egypt (AP) -- The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack on a bus carrying Christians on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, which killed 29.

Egypt responded to Friday's attack by launching a series of airstrikes that targeted what it said were militant bases in eastern Libya in which the assailants were trained. On Saturday, the military said on its official Facebook page that the airstrikes were continuing "day and night" and that they have "completely" destroyed their targets. It gave no details.

"What you've seen today will not go unpunished. An extremely painful strike has been dealt to the bases. Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror bases anywhere," President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in a televised address to the nation late Friday. He said the attacks on Christians aimed at driving a wedge between them and the country's Muslim majority.

He also appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump to lead the global war against terror.

The claim, published by the group's Aamaq news agency, takes to four the number of deadly attacks targeting Christians since December that the extremist group says it's behind. It put the death toll at 32, but there was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

In all, the four attacks - Friday's, two in April and one in December - killed at least 104 people, mostly Christians. El-Sissi declared a three-month state of emergency following April's twin attacks, which fell on Palm Sunday.

The Egyptian Cabinet, meanwhile, said 13 victims of Friday's carnage remained hospitalized in Cairo and Minya province, where the attack took place. The bloodshed came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

El-Sissi told Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, in a phone call late on Friday that his government would not rest until the perpetrators of the attack were punished.

Egypt's government has been struggling to contain an insurgency by Islamic militants led by an IS affiliate that is centered in the northern region of the Sinai peninsula, though attacks on the mainland have recently increased.

After a visit to Egypt last month by Pope Francis, IS vowed to escalate attacks against Christians and urged Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and Western embassies.

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