Hamza Hendawi ?and Mohammed Wagdy

CAIRO: Masked gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery south of Cairo on Friday, killing at least 28 people, and Egypt responded by launching airstrikes against what it said were militant training bases in Libya.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced the retaliatory action hours after the bus was riddled with machine-gun fire on a remote desert road by suspected Islamic State militants riding in three SUVs.

“What you’ve seen today will not go unpunished. An extremely painful strike has been dealt to the bases. Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror bases anywhere,” el-Sissi said in a televised address to the nation.

He also appealed to President Donald Trump to lead the global war against terror.

The ambush of the bus was the fourth deadly attack against the country’s Christians since December. The dead included two girls, ages 2 and 4, local officials said. Twenty-two others were reported wounded.

Trump, in Italy on his first trip abroad as president, blamed the bloodshed on a “thuggish ideology” and said it should bring nations together to crush “evil organizations of terror.”

Senior Egyptian officials said fighter jets targeted bases in eastern Libya of the Shura Council, an Islamist militia known to be linked to al-Qaida, not the Islamic State. There was no immediate word on damage or casualties.

The bus attack deepens the woes of the majority-Muslim nation, where el-Sissi’s government is struggling not only to crush a burgeoning Islamic insurgency but to revive the battered economy.

The country’s Christians have complained that the government is not doing enough to protect them from Islamic extremists, and hundreds of them reacted to the bus attack by staging angry street protests in two provincial cities, destroying at least six cars and briefly cutting off railway lines.

“Either we get retribution or die like them,” some chanted.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the ambush, which came on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State, which has been spearheading an insurgency that has carried out deadly attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and, increasingly, on the country’s mainland.

The Interior Ministry said the assailants opened fire as the bus traveled to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Maghagha, about 140 miles south of Cairo. The Coptic Orthodox monastery is reachable only by an unpaved route that veers off the main highway.