Militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshipers in the Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers, Egyptian officials said, killing at least 235 people in what appeared to be the latest attack by the Islamic State affiliate, state media reported.
A bomb explosion ripped through the Rawda mosque roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said. More than 50 ambulances ferried casualties from the scene to nearby hospitals after the attack on the mosque, the Mena news agency reported.
The official Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that at least 235 people were killed and 125 wounded in the attack, which is unprecedented in a four-year insurgency by Islamist extremist groups.
Daesh’s Egypt branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and also civilians accused of working with the authorities, in attacks in the north of the Sinai peninsula.
They have also targeted followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam as well as Christians. The victims included civilians and conscripts praying at the mosque.
A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights Daesh told AFP that the mosque is known as a place of gathering for Sufis. Daesh shares the puritan Salafi view of Sufis as heretics for seeking the intercession of saints.
The jihadists had previously kidnapped and beheaded an elderly Sufi leader, accusing him of practicing magic which Islam forbids, and abducted Sufi practitioners later released after “repenting.”
The group has killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings in Sinai and other parts of Egypt, forcing many to flee the peninsula. The military has struggled to quell the jihadists who pledged allegiance to IS in November 2014.
Daesh regularly conducts attacks against soldiers and policemen in the peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, although the frequency and scale of such attacks has diminished over the past year.
They have since increasingly turned to civilian targets, attacking not only Christians and Sufis but also Bedouin Sinai inhabitants accused of working with the army. Aside from Daesh, Egypt also faces a threat from Al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists who operate out of neighboring Libya.—Reuters/AFP