More than 230 people were killed after militants attacked a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai area on Friday. Attackers detonated a bomb and gunned down worshippers leading to the deadliest attack in Egypt’s modern history, state media reported. The public prosecutors’ office said in a statement 235 people had been killed and 109 more wounded. The government has declared a three-day period of mourning for the victims, Al Jazeera reported.
Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the Al Rawdah mosque in North Sinai’s Bir al-Abed when the bomb exploded, witnesses told news agency Reuters. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.
“Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them,” a witness named Mohamed told Reuters.
Following the attack, Egyptian military reportedly launched air strikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — who is a strong opponent of Islamist militancy — convened an emergency meeting with his defence and interior minister and chief of intelligence after the attack. In a televised address later, Sisi said the security forces would “avenge the martyrs”.
“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” he said. “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.”
Egypt mosque attack: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi seen during a meeting with government members on the attack in North Sinai (The Egyptian Presidency via Reuters)
Local militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014, is one of Islamic State’s surviving branches following the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Earlier this year, Islamic State also posted a video of the beheading of two Sufis in northern Sinai, accusing them of practicing “sorcery”. Some reports claimed that the worshippers at the North Sinai mosque on Friday were also Sufis.