Egypt strikes ter­ror­ists post deadly mosque attack

The mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed was bombed dur­ing Fri­day prayers, killing more than 300, in­clud­ing 27 chil­dren.

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

Egypt’s mil­i­tary said on Satur­day it had car­ried out air strikes and raids overnight against ter­ror­ists held re­spon­si­ble for killing more than 300 wor­ship­pers at a mosque in North Si­nai.

The blood­i­est attack in Egypt’s modern his­tory, in which ter­ror­ists gunned down wor­ship­pers, brought con­dem­na­tion from lead­ers from Wash­ing­ton to Moscow, while Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sisi de­clared three days of mourn­ing in the shocked na­tion. No group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, but Egyp­tian forces are bat­tling a stub­born Is­lamic State af­fil­i­ate in the re­gion, one of the sur­viv­ing branches of the mil­i­tant group after it suf­fered de­feats by USbacked forces in Iraq and Syria.

“The air force has over the past few hours elim­i­nated a num­ber of out­posts used by ter­ror­ist el­e­ments,” the army said.

Wit­nesses say gun­men set off a bomb at the end of Fri­day prayers at the Al Raw­dah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Ar­ish city, and then opened fire as wor­ship­pers tried to flee, shoot­ing at am­bu­lances and set­ting fire to cars to block roads.

Strik­ing a mosque would be a shift in tac­tics for the Si­nai ter­ror­ists, who have pre­vi­ously at­tacked troops and po­lice and more re­cently tried to spread their in­sur­gency to the main­land by hit­ting Chris­tian churches and pil­grims.

The mas­sive ca­su­al­ties in the Si­nai attack and the tar­get­ing of a mosque stunned Egyp­tians who have strug­gled through in­sta­bil­ity af- ter the 2011 up­ris­ing ousted long-stand­ing leader Hosni Mubarak, and the years of protests that fol­lowed.

“May the souls of all those who die rest in peace, Mus­lims and Chris­tians alike... th­ese peo­ple have no religion. Ev­ery other day some­one dies, ev­ery other day a church is bombed ... where is the se­cu­rity?,” said Ab­dul­lah an un­em­ployed man in down­town Cairo .

Lo­cal sources said some of the wor­ship­pers were Su­fis, whom groups such as Is­lamic State con­sider tar­gets be­cause they re­vere saints and shrines, which for Is­lamists is tan­ta­mount to idol­a­try. Is­lamic State has tar­geted Sufi Mus­lims and Shi‘ite in other coun­tries like Iraq.

The ji­hadists in Egypt’s Si­nai have also at­tacked lo­cal tribes and their mili­tias for work­ing with the army and po­lice. Sisi, a for­mer armed forces com­man­der who sup­port­ers see as a bul­wark against Is­lamist ter­ror­ists, promised the “ut­most force” against those re­spon­si­ble for Fri­day’s attack. Se­cu­rity has been a key rea­son for his sup­port­ers to back him, and he is ex­pected to run for re­elec­tion next year.

“What is hap­pen­ing is an at­tempt to stop us from our ef­forts in the fight against ter­ror­ism,” he said on Fri­day.

North Si­nai, a mostly desert area which stretches from the Suez Canal east­wards to the Gaza Strip and Is­rael, has long been a se­cu­rity headache for Egypt and is a strate­gic re­gion for Cairo be­cause of its sen­si­tive bor­ders. Lo­cal mil­i­tant group An­sar Bayt al-Maqdis, once al­lied to al Qaeda, split from it and de­clared al­le­giance to Is­lamic State in 2014. But at­tacks in the Si­nai wors­ened after 2013 when Sisi led the over­throw of Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Mursi of the Mus­lim Brother­hood after mass protests against his rule.


Sup­port­ers of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pak­istan, an Is­lamist po­lit­i­cal party, chant slo­gans as they walk to join the sit-in protest in Karachi, Pak­istan on Satur­day.

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