At least 28 people have been killed, including children, and 22 injured after masked gunmen riding in three SUVs attacked vehicles carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt.

The incident occurred on Friday (26 May) in the Minya province, about 140 miles south of Cairo, as the Copts were on their way from the Beni Suef province to the St. Samuel Monastery, officials said.

The group was traveling in two buses and a truck when they were stopped by masked gunmen, Reuters reported.

Witnesses quoted by Associated Press said there were between eight and 10 masked attackers dressed in military uniforms.

Arab TV stations showed images of a badly damaged bus along a roadside, many of its windows shattered and with numerous bullet holes. Footage of the bus's interior showed blood stains on the seats and shattered glass.

Khaled Mogahed, the health ministry spokesman, said the death toll was 28 but feared it could rise further. According to Copts United news portal, only three children survived the attack.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Islamic State has claimed to have been behind a number of attacks in Egypt on Copts in recent months.

Suicide bombings targeting churches in Tanta and Alexandria on 9 April left at least 45 people dead.

In December last year, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people, including many women and children, and injured 49 after exploding 12kg of TNT inside a chapel next to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo.

Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up about 10% of the country's population, has repeatedly complained of suffering discrimination and attacks at hands of the country's majority Muslim population.

Last month, Pope Francis visited the country in part to show his support for Christians in Egypt, paying tribute to the victims of recent attacks.

Following the Pope's visit, the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt vowed to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies.

egypt attack
Images from Egyptian TV showed a damaged bus attacked by gunmen Nile News