President Donald Trump Friday condemned the "merciless slaughter" of 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt by gunmen that also wounded 25 others, saying that "it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil."
"Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. "This merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls.
"Wherever innocent blood is spilled, a wound is inflicted upon humanity.
"But this attack also steels our resolve to bring nations together for the righteous purpose of crushing the evil organizations of terror – and exposing their depraved, twisted, and thuggish ideology.
"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," President Trump said. "The bloodletting of Christians must end, and all who aid their killers must be punished."
He also tweeted his sentiments.
Gunmen opened fire on a caravan of Coptic Christians early Friday who were travelling to a monastery in southern Egypt, Health Ministry officials said.
Many children were among the victims, officials said.
Eyewitnesses said masked men opened fire after stopping the Christians, who were travelling in a bus and other vehicles.
Local television channels showed a bus apparently raked by gunfire and smeared with blood. Clothes and shoes could be seen lying in and around the bus.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. It followed many church bombings claimed by Islamic State terrorists.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said, and the cabinet said the attackers would not succeed in dividing the nation.
Muslim leaders also condemned the killings.
"America stands with President al-Sisi and all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy," Trump said. "Civilization is at a precipice — and whether we climb or fall will be decided by our ability to join together to protect all faiths, all religions, and all innocent life.
"No matter what, America will do what it must to protect its people.
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