235 pilgrims killed and 109 injured in a mosque attack at Cairo

DAINIK NATION BUREAU

At least 235 pilgrims were killed and 109 others injured when heavily-armed militants bombed a mosque and opened fire on people attending Friday prayers in Egypt’s restive North Sinai region, in the deadliest terror attack in the country.The Egypt government has announced three days of mourning.

The militants launched a targeted bomb and gun attack on the al-Rowda mosque in Al-Arish city during the Friday prayers, the state-run MENA news agency reported.

After the bomb ripped through the mosque, the gunmen on four off-road vehicles opened fire on the worshippers, who tried to escape after the explosion, it said.

The blasts from improvised explosive devices caused considerable damage to the mosque. Speaking to state-run Masriya TV station, health ministry spokesman Khalid Mujahid described the incident as a “terrorist attack”.

One report said the target appeared to be supporters of the security forces. Local residents were quoted as saying that followers of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, regularly gathered at the mosque. Islamist jihadist groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS), see Sufis as heretics.

No one has yet claimed responsibility and there is no word yet on what happened to the militants involved. However, it bears the hallmarks of an attack by IS. There have been regular attacks blamed on militants in the Sinai Peninsula since the January 2011 revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, but this is the deadliest of its kind.

The attacks targeting police and military increased after the ouster of Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 by the military following massive protests against his rule. Over 700 security personnel have been killed since then.

The military has launched security campaigns in the area, arrested suspects and demolished houses of terrorists, including those facilitating tunnels leading to the Gaza Strip.

The Egypt government has announced three days of mourning, even as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi chaired an emergency meeting to review the security situation.

Egypt has witnessed a series of terror attacks this year. On May 26, gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, killing at least 28. On April 9, two suicide bombings at churches in Alexandria and Tanta left 46 people dead.

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