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Egypt attack: At least 235 killed as militants bomb mosque in north Sinai region

Friday 24 November 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/world/suspected-militants-target-mosque-with-bomb-gunfire-in-egypts-north-sinai-witnesses-4952812/

Egypt attack Live updates: At least 235 killed as militants bomb mosque in north Sinai region

Egypt’s security forces are battling an Islamic State insurgency in north Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since fighting there intensified over the last three years.

By: Express Web Desk | Cairo

Updated: November 24, 2017 11:07 pm

Militants targeted supporters of the security forces attending prayers at Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of Arish city. (File/Photo)

At least 235 people were killed as militants bombed a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai region on Friday in one of the deadliest attacks in the regions Islamist insurgency, state media and witnesses said. The militants detonated a bomb at the mosque and shot fleeing worshippers and ambulances.

No group claimed immediate responsibility, but since 2014 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the north of the mainly desert Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of the city of El Arish. “They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident whose relatives were at the scene told Reuters. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”

Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshippers were sufis who hardliners such as Islamic State regard as apostates because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants, convened an emergency meeting with his defence and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack, the presidency’s Facebook page and state television said.

The government also declared three days of mourning.

Militants have mostly targeted security forces in their attacks since bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi, then an armed forces commander, led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. But jihadists have also targeted local Sinai tribes that are working with the armed forces, branding them traitors for cooperating with the army and police.

In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Militants have tried to expand beyond the largely barren, Sinai Peninsula into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims. In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group travelling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.

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10.45 pm: External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar condemned the heinous attack and offered his condolences for the affected. He tweeted, “Government of Indian strongly condemns the heinous act of terrorism that has claimed innocent lives in Bir-al-Abed, North Sinai in Egypt today. In this hour of tragedy, the government and the people of India stand by the government and the people of Egypt.We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those affected in this attack. This incident is another stark reminder of the need to develop a global strategy to fight this menace of terrorism.”

10:20 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee also expressed grief over the attacks. “Saddened with the dastardly terrorist attack in #Sinai #EgyptAttack Strongly condemn such violence that takes innocent lives,” she tweeted.

10:15 pm: PM Modi also condemned the attack. He took to twitter and termed the attack as “barbaric”. “Strongly condemn the barbaric terrorist attack on a place of worship in Egypt. Our deep condolences at the loss of innocent lives. India resolutely supports the fight against all forms of terrorism and stands with the people as well as Government of Egypt,” he tweeted.

9:50 pm: Trump condemns the attacks: US President Donald Trump took to twitter to express his concerns over terrorism following the attack. “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!” he tweeted.

9:45 pm: Condemning the extremist attack, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, called it “criminal” and “cowardly” and expressed his condolences to the victims and their families, AP reported.

9:40 pm: Death toll rises to at least 235, BBC reported.

(With inputs from Reuters)