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Trump Calls For Defense Of Christians In Middle East

Following an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt on May 26 that killed at least 28 people, President Donald Trump called for the defense of Christian communities in the Middle East.

The deaths occurred when gunmen opened fire on a bus transporting Christians to a monastery, the Washington Examiner reports.

The masked attackers wounded dozens more people in the attack before fleeing the scene in pickup trucks.

The White House subsequently issued a statement condemning the killings.

"Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization, and it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil," Trump said on May 26, according to the Examiner. "This merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls."

Coptic Christians, who make up around 10 percent of the Egyptian population, have repeatedly been the targets of attacks over recent months. In April, 45 people died when two suicide bomb attacks were carried out on churches during Palm Sunday services in Tanta and Alexandria. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded by declaring a state of emergency.

In December, a bomb blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral killed 25, including many women and children.

Following the latest attack, president Trump stated that he gave his support to President el-Sisi and "all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy."

Trump argued that responsibility for protecting Christians in the Middle East did not rest solely with Washington.

"America also makes clear to its friends, allies, and partners that the treasured and historic Christian communities of the Middle East must be defended and protected," said Trump. "The bloodletting of Christians must end, and all who aid their killers must be punished."

Egyptian authorities reacted to the killings by launching air strikes on alleged Islamic militant bases in neighboring Libya. Six air strikes were conducted on a base near Derna, where reports say the men responsible for the attack were trained.

"Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror camps anywhere ... if it plans attacking Egypt whether inside or outside the country," el-Sisi said in a televised address, according to Al Jazeera.

However, locals in the targeted area said the air strikes landed in civilian parts of the city, and they alleged that only houses, vehicles and farms were damaged in the attack.

No terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility for the killings. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the two bombings in April.

Sources: Washington Examiner, Al Jazeera / Photo credit: Shealah Craighead via The White House/Flickr

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