Egypt Sinai mosque attack kills 235


The militants targeted a mosque near al-ArishImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

The militants targeted a mosque near al-Arish

Militants have launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province, killing 235 people, state media say.

Witnesses say the al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed, near al-Arish, was targeted during Friday prayers.

It is the deadliest attack of its kind since an Islamist insurgency in the peninsula was stepped up in 2013.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has held emergency talks with security officials to decide how to respond.

Local police said gunmen arrived in four off-road vehicles before opening fire on worshippers, AP reported.

Pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque. At least 130 people were wounded, reports say.

Locals are also quoted as saying that followers of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, regularly gathered at the mosque.

Some jihadist groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS), see Sufis as heretics.

Image copyright
AFP

An unprecedented attack

By Sally Nabil, BBC News, Cairo

Islamist militants have been operating in northern Sinai for several years, mainly targeting security forces.

But this is the first time that worshippers inside a mosque have been targeted. The number of victims is unprecedented for an attack of this type.

Northern Sinai has been living under a media blackout over the past few years. No media organisations have been allowed to go there, including state-sponsored ones.

The frequency of attacks raises doubts about the effectiveness of military operations. While the army releases statements every now and then, claiming victory in some parts of Sinai, there seems to be no end in sight to the ongoing battle between the army and militants.

Militant Islamists have been waging an insurgency in recent years, stepping up attacks after Egypt’s military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

Hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians have been killed since then, mostly in attacks carried out by Sinai Province group, which is affiliated to IS.

In September, at least 18 policemen were killed when the group attacked a convoy near al-Arish.

Sinai Province has also carried out deadly attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority elsewhere in the country, and said it bombed a Russian plane carrying tourists in Sinai in 2015, killing 224 people on board.



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