Tuesday 11 December 2018

Militants kill 235 in attack on mosque

Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish. A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said. Photo: Getty Images
Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish. A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said. Photo: Getty Images

Raf Sanchez and Magdy Samaan in Cairo

Egypt was last night reeling from the bloodiest terror attack in its history after suspected Isil jihadists slaughtered 235 people during prayers by detonating explosives inside a Sinai mosque and then killing fleeing worshippers in a hail of gunfire.

The attack began with a powerful explosion at the mosque in the remote village of Rawdah in north Sinai as hundreds gathered for prayers. Gunmen then leapt from four off-road vehicles to kill people as they fled.

The Rawda mosque, the target for the gun and bombing attack
which left at least 235 dead. Photo: Getty Images
The Rawda mosque, the target for the gun and bombing attack which left at least 235 dead. Photo: Getty Images

Security officials and witnesses said the attackers used their vehicles to cut off escape routes and opened fire on ambulances as they reached the scene. More than 100 were wounded. The gunmen appear to have escaped before Egyptian security forces arrived.

The worshippers at the al-Rawdah mosque were mainly Sufis, who adhere to a mystic form of Islam. Isil considers Sufis to be heretics and has threatened them in the past.

No group has claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on an Isil affiliate group in the Sinai desert which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Egyptian military and the country's Christian minority.

The village of Rawdah is home to around 2,500 people, all members of the Sawarka tribe. In conservative rural areas of Egypt it is usually only men who attend Friday prayers. With an attack so large it is believed that a significant portion of all the men in the village were either killed or wounded. Abdel Qader Mubarak, who is originally from the village, said his entire family had been killed. "I can't talk, all my family are gone," he told 'The Daily Telegraph'. The massacre was the worst terrorist attack on civilians in modern Egyptian history, and its death toll outstripped the 224 deaths caused when suspected Isil militants blew up a Russian airliner shortly after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh in 2015.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s president.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s president.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's president promised to respond with "brutal force" against the attackers, and declared three days of mourning.

"We will remain steadfast and will fight back with an iron fist. This attack will only add to our persistence on overcoming the tragedy and we will win the battle against the forces of evil.

"The army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period."

Despite Mr Sisi's pledge, the security forces have struggled to contain the jihadist insurgency in Sinai and suffered heavy casualties.

Donald Trump, the American president, led a chorus of international condemnation.

"The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence."

Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, called the slaughter "a barbaric act".

Jihadist groups have regularly attacked Christian churches in Egypt to deepen sectarian divides in the country. Mobile phone footage purportedly taken from inside the mosque in the moments before the attack shows dozens of men sitting on the floor as they listened to a sermon. Suddenly, an explosion is heard nearby and the men leap to their feet in panic and confusion.

Irish Independent

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