Egyptian militants who attacked Christian pilgrims killed

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Egyptian security forces have killed 19 people linked to a deadly attack on Coptic Christians, according to the interior ministry.

The suspects were killed in a firefight in the desert west of Minya province after security forces pursued them, the ministry said in a statement.

"The terrorist elements opened fire on the [security] forces who responded", the statement said.

The ministry published photos of bloodied bodies with their faces concealed and assault rifles and shotguns lying beside them.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Minya attack, which occurred on Friday, though it provided no evidence of its involvement. The ministry did not say when the gun battle took place.

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Gunmen on Friday opened fire on two buses carrying Christians near the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, some 260 km south of Cairo, killing seven and wounding 18 others.

Twin church bombings in April 2017 left more than 40 people dead, and in December past year a gunman killed nine people in a church in southern Cairo.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 100 million people and have long complained of discrimination. He said he was praying for the "pilgrims killed for the sole fact of being Christians", asking that those grieving be comforted.

Pope Francis on Sunday decried the attack and invited the faithful in St. Peter's Square to pray with him for the seven people killed on Friday.

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