Against the backdrop of the first border opening between Egypt’s northern Sinai and Gaza; and against the ongoing efforts by the al-Sisi led coalition to move toward peace between Arabs and Israelis; the extremists strike back today with a horrific terrorist attack against the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.
(Reuters) CAIRO – Militants killed more than 230 people at a mosque in North Sinai on Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers in the deadliest such attack of Egypt’s modern history, state media and witnesses said.
Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape.
”Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them, said Mohamed, a witness.
The public prosecutors’ office said in a statement 235 people had been killed and 109 more wounded. (read more)
Hours after the attack, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered Egypt’s military to launch air strikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed, security sources and witnesses said.
“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force. What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region.” ~Egyptian President al-Sisi
The terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, once allied to al Qaeda, declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.
White House: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms todays horrific terrorist attack at a mosque in Egypts North Sinai province. We offer our condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with the people and government of Egypt against terrorism. There can be no tolerance for barbaric groups that claim to act in the name of a faith but attack houses of worship and murder the innocent and defenseless while at prayer. The international community must continue to strengthen its efforts to defeat terrorist groups that threaten the United States and our partners and we must collectively discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence.”