WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump vowed Friday to crush "evil organizations of terror" following an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt that killed more than two dozen people near Cairo and prompted the country's leader to appeal to Trump to lead the fight against global terrorism.
In a sharply worded statement, Trump condemned terrorists who were "engaged in a war against civilization" and decried the "merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt." He said the attack on a bus carrying Christians, many of them children, would steel the nation's resolve to destroy terrorist organizations and expose "their depraved, twisted and thuggish ideology."
Trump, attending the G-7 meeting in Sicily, said the U.S. would stand with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who vowed to strike back at the training bases of Islamic State militants suspected of waging the attacks. Egyptian fighter jets struck militant bases in eastern Libya.
El-Sissi, in his televised address, said of the U.S. president: "I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task."
Trump said in his statement that the U.S. "makes clear to its friends, allies and partners that the treasured and historic Christian communities of the Middle East must be defended and protected. The bloodletting of Christians must end, and all who aid their killers must be punished."
It was the latest sign of the burgeoning friendship between Trump and el-Sissi, the former general who toppled democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member. It marks a change from former President Barack Obama, who often kept el-Sissi at a distance and criticized Egypt's human rights record and suspended some U.S. military aid.
Trump and el-Sissi held talks in Saudi Arabia last week ahead of the Arab-Islamic-U.S. summit, a gathering that followed an April meeting at the White House.
Trump has made fighting terrorism a focal point of his first overseas trip as president, which ends this weekend. During a stop in Saudi Arabia, Trump and King Salman inaugurated a state-of-the-art center in Riyadh aimed at monitoring and countering extremism.