At least 235 people have been killed after a gun and bomb terror attack at a packed mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province today.
Another 130 people are reported to have been injured, making it the worst terror attack in the country’s modern history.
The terrorists reportedly detonated a bomb in the mosque’s creche before firing on fleeing worshippers while blocking escape routes with burnt-out cars.
The suspected Islamic State attack took place at the Al-Rawdah Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abed, near El-Arish, during Friday prayers. Extremist Sunni jihadists have previously targeted Sufis – a mystical Islamic sect – for deviating from orthodoxy.
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has vowed to respond to the slaughter with ‘brutal force’, with the air force already conducting air strikes in the area around the mosque.
US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, condemned the mass murder as a ‘horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers’, adding: ‘The world cannot tolerate terrorism.’
An improvised explosive device (IED) is believed to have been used before it was followed up with machine gunfire from multiple gunmen using four off-road vehicles.
A witness said: ‘They were shooting at people as they left the mosque.
‘They were shooting at the ambulances, too.’
Some reports have claimed the bomb was set off in the children’s kindergarten area of the mosque before the terrorists – in military uniforms and wielding black flags – slaughtered those who fled.
They added that IS militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.
Another report claims that terrorists wearing suicide vests hid themselves among the people at the mosque before detonating the bombs, but this remains unconfirmed.
MP Mustafa Bakri branded the situation ‘catastrophic’ on Twitter.
He added: ‘The terrorists wore masks and surrounded the mosque during prayers, and terrorists wearing belts were hidden among the worshippers.’
A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights Islamic State 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.
MENA reported that Egypt’s presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.
An angry President al-Sisi pledged to respond with ‘brutal force’ against militants who massacred at least 235 people at a mosque during weekly prayers on Friday.
‘The army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period,’ he also said in a televised speech.
Cairo’s international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troopers and forces seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.