Egyptian security forces gunned down seven suspected Islamic State militants on Monday while they were planning to attack a Christian monastery in the wake of the deadly Palm Sunday church bombings.
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The Egyptian government said the seven militants met on Monday in the province of Assuit to plan an attack on a Christian monastery in Durunka. The ISIS followers were also planning to attack Christians in Assuit and Sohag, police officers, a courthouse, and other government establishments, The Daily Mail relays.
In a statement, Egypt's Interior Ministry said the jihadists started shooting at the security forces as the latter approached them. In response, the Egyptian troops returned fire and managed to kill seven of the militants, including government employee Hasan Abdel-Al Siddiq, law student Islam Said Abdel Salam Ismail, and Mustapha al-Sayyed Muhammad Dhahr.
Authorities also found machine guns, AK47s, ammunition and a motorbike inside the compound where the shootout happened. They also recovered notes containing details on ISIS' planned attacks.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi applauded the security forces for the successful operation. The raid comes on the heels of his declaration of a three-month state of emergency after ISIS launched two deadly church attacks in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday.
Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Church, was reportedly inside St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria when the explosion happened. Fortunately, he emerged from the incident unscathed, The Associated Press reports.
The recent terror attacks have shaken Egyptian Christians' confidence in el-Sisi's capability to protect them and other minorities from violence. Nevertheless, he had deployed special forces in order to help police protect churches and other important establishments in a bid to restore the people's confidence in him.
The declaration of a state of emergency enables authorities to arrest people even without warrants and prosecute suspects. It also allows them to create special courts. However, the AP has raised doubts on the effectiveness of the measure, given that the government has been fiercely fighting dissent for years and yet the deadly attacks still persist.