First Published: 2017-11-24

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack
Another 109 people reported wounded in bombing, shooting attack on mosque in volatile northern Sinai Peninsula.
Middle East Online

Egyptians gather around bodies following attack at Rawda mosque.

CAIRO - Armed attackers on Friday killed at least 235 worshippers in a bomb and gun assault on a packed mosque in Egypt's restive North Sinai province, in the country's deadliest attack in recent memory.

A bomb explosion ripped through the Rawda mosque frequented by Sufis roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish before gunmen opened fire on those gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.

Witnesses said the assailants had surrounded the mosque with all-terrain vehicles then planted a bomb outside.

The gunmen then mowed down the panicked worshippers as they attempted to flee and used the congregants' vehicles they had set alight to block routes to the mosque.

The state prosecutor's office said in a statement that 235 people were killed and 109 wounded in the attack, the scale of which is unprecedented in a four-year insurgency by Islamist extremist groups.

US President Donald Trump condemened on Twitter the "horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshippers."

A furious Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of mourning and pledged to "respond with brutal force" to the attack.

"The army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period," he added in a televised speech.

UK foreign minister Boris Johnson condemned the "barbaric attack" in a post on Twitter, while his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed his condolences to the families of victims of the "despicable" bloodshed.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, which is based in Cairo, condemned the "terrifying crime which again shows that Islam is innocent of those who follow extremist terrorist ideology," his spokesman said in a statement.

- IS targeting of Sufis -

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Islamic State group's Egypt branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and also civilians accused of working with the authorities, in attacks in the north of the Sinai peninsula.

They have also targeted followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam as well as Christians.

The victims of Friday's attack included civilians and conscripts praying at the mosque.

A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights IS said that the mosque is known as a place of gathering for Sufis.

The Islamic State group shares the puritan Salafi view of Sufis as heretics for seeking the intercession of saints.

The jihadists had previously kidnapped and beheaded an elderly Sufi leader, accusing him of practising magic which Islam forbids, and abducted Sufi practitioners later released after "repenting."

An IS propaganda outlet had published an interview earlier with the commander of its "morality police" in Sinai who said their "first priority was to combat the manifestations of polytheism including Sufism."

The group has killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings in Sinai and other parts of Egypt, forcing many to flee the peninsula.

The military has struggled to quell jihadists who pledged allegiance to IS in November 2014.

IS regularly conducts attacks against soldiers and policemen in the peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, although the frequency and scale of such attacks has diminished over the past year.

The jihadists have since increasingly turned to civilian targets, attacking not only Christians and Sufis but also Bedouin Sinai inhabitants accused of working with the army.

Aside from IS, Egypt also faces a threat from Al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists who operate out of neighbouring Libya.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Islam -- Supporters of Islam in Arabic -- claimed an October ambush in Egypt's Western Desert that killed at least 16 policemen.

Many of those killed belonged to the interior ministry's secretive National Security Service.

The military later conducted air strikes on the attackers, killing their leader Emad al-Din Abdel Hamid, a most wanted jihadist who was a military officer before joining an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Libya's militant stronghold of Derna.

 

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS

Isolated US defiant at UN Security Council

Putin to visit Turkey for talks on Jerusalem, Syria

Protests sweep Muslim world over Jerusalem

US urges Saudi to show caution in regional disputes

Thousands march in Istanbul to protest US Jerusalem move

Bahrain Shiite leader undergoes surgery

Malaysians, Indonesians protest US move on Jerusalem

EU, Jordan voice backing for Palestinian state

Clashes in West Bank over US Jerusalem move

Macron appeals for calm over US Jerusalem embassy move

World leaders to 're-legitimise' Lebanon PM at Paris talks