Friday 16 November 2018

Hundreds killed in deadly Egypt mosque bombing

CAIRO, November 25, 2017

At least 235 people were killed and more than 100 others injured on Friday when militants detonated explosives and sprayed gunfire inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula, the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s recent history. 
A bomb ripped through the mosque as Friday prayers were finishing, before militants in four off-road vehicles approached and opened fire on worshippers, a military source told The Guardian. Some witnesses said they had seen around 20 attackers.
More than 50 ambulances ferried casualties from al-Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, about 40km west of the city of Arish, to nearby hospitals. Pictures from the scene showed rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque, and at least 130 people were reported to be injured.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it marks a major escalation in a region where for the past three years Egyptian security forces have battled an Islamic State insurgency that has killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation - not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target, reported The New York Times
Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship.
The attack injected a new element into Egypt’s struggle with militants because most of the victims were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that the Islamic State and other Sunni extremist groups deem heretical. 
And it underscored the failure of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who has justified his harsh crackdown on political freedom in the name of crushing Islamic militancy, to deliver on his promises of security.
World leaders quickly condemned the mosque attack, with President Trump denouncing it as “horrible and cowardly.” He said later that it explained why the US needed a border wall with Mexico and restrictions on immigration, which he referred to as “the ban.”
State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir Al Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.
Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape, reported Reuters, citing a witness.
”Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them, said Mohamed, a witness.
“The scene was horrific,” said Ibrahim Sheteewi, a resident of Bir al-Abed, the small north Sinai town where the attack took place. “The bodies were scattered on the ground outside the mosque. I hope God punishes them for this.”
A Sinai police officer said the dead included at least 15 children. A witness put the toll even higher, saying he had helped gather the bodies of 25 children.
Hours later the Egyptian military carried out several airstrikes near Bir al-Abed targeting militants fleeing in four-wheel-drive vehicles, an Egyptian military official said.
The gunmen set fire to cars parked outside the mosque to hinder escape, and opened fire on ambulances as they arrived on the scene, a government official said on state television.
Mayna Nasser, 40, who was shot twice in the shoulder, drifted in and out of consciousness as he was rushed to a hospital. “My children were there; my children were there,” he said, according to Samy, a volunteer emergency worker who drove him there and who declined to give his last name.
Local emergency services were so overwhelmed that some of the wounded had to be transported to the hospital in the back of a cattle truck, he said.
Many were taken to the general hospital in the main northern Sinai town of El Arish, where medics described chaotic scenes as staff struggled to deal with a flood of dead and wounded, many with extensive burns or severed limbs.
Most worshipers at the mosque were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that some extremists consider heretical.
“We are swamped,” said one medical official, speaking by phone on condition of anonymity. “We don’t know what to say. This is insane.”
Other victims, like Mohammed Abdel Salam, a 22-year-old construction worker, ended up in a hospital in the nearby city of Ismailia. “I wish I never stopped to pray,” he said. “I’m not even a Sufi. I was just there by accident.”
Sisi convened an emergency meeting of top security officials, including the interior minister, spy chief and defense minister. “The military and the police will take revenge,” he said in a televised speech.

Tags: | gunfire | Egypt mosque bombing |

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