Egyptian state TV has confirmed 235 people have been killed in a coordinated bomb and gun attack in northern Sinai. Some 130 others were injured.
The explosion took place in the vicinity of a mosque during Friday prayer and was accompanied by an armed attack carried out by suspected militants, Reuters reports, citing eyewitnesses and security sources.
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. Those fleeing the mosque were then reportedly attacked by gunmen.
Ambulances transporting injured people to nearby hospitals came under attack by the gunmen.
“They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident, whose relatives were at the scene. “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 (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) regard as apostates because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.
The office of Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi has declared three days of mourning, according to Shorouk News. State TV reports five militants were involved in the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent condolences to the Egyptian president, describing Friday’s attack as cruel and cynical. “The murder of civilians in the course of a religious service is striking with its cruelty and cynicism. We are once again convinced that the notion of human morality is absolutely alien to terrorists,” Putin said in a telegram of condolences.
US President Donald Trump described the attack as “cowardly” and said the world must defeat terrorists militarily.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
The sparsely-populated Sinai peninsula has been the scene of numerous clashes between government forces and armed movements. President El-Sisi described it as a “nesting ground for terrorism” following a suicide bombing that killed 31 soldiers in 2014.