Terrorists suspected to be the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province, killing more than 235 people on Friday.
More than 235 people have been killed in an Egyptian Mosque on Friday after dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee. Hundreds of worshippers had gathered at The al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed for the Friday’s prayer at northern Sinai Peninsula.
The attack began with a powerful explosion at the al-Rawdah mosque and gunmen leaped out of four off-road vehicles to kill people as they fled. Security officials and witnesses said the attackers used their vehicles to cut off escape routes and opened fire on ambulances as they reached the scene. More than 200 were wounded.
Witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee.
The assailants are reported to have set parked vehicles on fire in the vicinity to block off access to the mosque.
Pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque. At least 100 people were wounded, reports say, overwhelming hospitals.”They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident who had relatives there told Reuters news agency. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”
This is the deadliest militant attack in modern Egyptian history. Bir al-Abed is about 130 miles (211km) from Cairo. Egypt for years been battling an armed anti-government campaign in the rugged and thinly populated Sinai Peninsula, which has gained pace since the military overthrew democratically elected Presidedemocratically elected President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013.
In 2014, following a suicide bombing that killed 31 soldiers, el-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the peninsula, describing it as a “nesting ground for terrorism and terrorists”.
Egyptians gather around bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, on November 24, 2017.
A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.
What has the response been?
Egyptian President Sisi has declared three days of mourning and vows to respond with “brute force” to the attack that has so far claimed at least 235 lives. The military is reported to have already conducted air strikes in mountains around Bir al-Abed. “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,” Mr. Sisi said in a televised address.
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned the attack as a “terrifying crime which again shows that Islam is innocent of those who follow extremist terrorist ideology”.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has released a full statement on the attack:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific terrorist attack at a mosque in Egypt’s 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.
The UN Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have condemned the deadly attack in “the strongest terms” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The council statement called it a “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack” and reiterated that all acts of terrorism “are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation.” Mr. Guterres called the attack, which killed at least 235 people, “horrific.”
US President Donald Trump called the attack “horrible and cowardly”. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed condolences to these families of those killed in the “despicable attack”.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: “Appalled by the sickening attack on a mosque in North Sinai.
AL ARISH, EGYPT – NOVEMBER 24: Wounded are taken to the hospital after the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on November 24, 2017. The death toll from a bomb that went off outside a mosque in the city of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula following Friday prayers has climbed to a whopping 235, according to official sources. At least 109 others were injured in the blast, which occurred in the city’s Al-Rawda neighborhood.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general, called the attack “barbaric”
Turkey, Italy, and Kuwait also condemned the attack.