Egypt is considering new measures to protect Christians, in response to a May 2017 attack on buses carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery in the Minya governorate south of Cairo — another in a long line of deadly Daesh assaults against the minority population. The Christian religious calendar is full of vulnerable pilgrimages to monasteries and ancient churches.
One measure is to either suspend such pilgrimages or closely coordinate the movement of pilgrims with security forces, a tactic used to protect foreign tourists in southern Egypt during an insurgency in the 1990s. Another option is to significantly step up security outside churches and roads leading to monasteries, mostly found in remote deserts.
Until recently, the Egyptian government had successfully limited Daesh’s influence to the remote northern Sinai Peninsula. But with violence now spilling over into the mainland, and an increasing number of high-profile attacks on Christians, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is doubling down on efforts to contain the violence.
To that end, el-Sissi has added French fighter jets, helicopter carriers and German submarines to Egypt’s arsenal of Soviet-era weapons and U.S.-made F-16 warplanes, Apache gunships and Abrams tanks, according to The Associated Press.
El-Sissi and his military say the attackers have come from eastern Libya, sneaking into Egypt across the porous desert border. He said security forces have over the past two years intercepted 1,000 four-wheel drive vehicles that extremists used to enter Egypt; 300 were caught in the last three months alone.
His military reports that airstrikes in Libya are continuing. Egypt, in the meantime, has pushed for lifting the international arms embargo against Libya, hoping that will give its main ally in Libya, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a decisive advantage in his three-year campaign against Libyan violent extremist groups.
Sources: The Associated Press, CNN