Armed attackers have killed at least 235 worshippers in a bomb and gun assault on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province.
The attack on Friday following prayers at the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, 40km from the capital of el-Arish, began with a bomb explosion, with an estimated 40 gunmen surrounding the mosque and shooting people as they tried to escape.
Officials say 235 people had been killed and 109 wounded. The mosque is known as the birthplace of the founder of Sufism, in the area, a mystical branch of Islam considered apostate by extremists.
The attack is the worst in three years of fighting with Islamic State extremists in the regions which have already resulted in hundreds of deaths. In July 23 soldiers died when Islamic State suicide bombers drove cars into military checkpoints in the Sinai region.
It’s also believed to be the first time extremists have made fellow Muslims their target, having previously attacked the police, military and Christian churches.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The government has declared three days of mourning and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said “justice will be served” against everyone involved in what he called a “cowardly attack”.
The Egpytian airforce launched a bombing attack on the mountains around the city as the president took to television to say the military and police will “avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force”.
World leaders condemned the attack, including US President Donald Trump, who said he would be calling the Eyptian president to discuss the attack.
But he also used Twitter to further his own domestic policies saying “Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.”
Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also sent his condolences, calling it an “appalling and barbaric terrorist attack” in a joint statement with foreign minister Julie Bishop.
Australia condemns the horrific terrorist attack killing hundreds in the Nth Sinai, Egypt. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery for the injured. We are resolute in our determination to defeat Islamist terrorism & keep Australians safe.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) November 24, 2017
“The Australian Embassy in Cairo has been advised by Egyptian authorities that at this stage no Australians are known to have been affected by the attack,” they said in the statement.
“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to all parts of North Sinai due to the high threat of terrorist attacks and risks posed by violent criminals.”
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