DEATH TOLL RISES IN EGYP­TIAN MAS­SACRE

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - PRESS AS­SO­CI­A­TION news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

THE death toll from a mil­i­tant attack on an Egyp­tian mosque has been raised to 305, in­clud­ing 27 chil­dren, the coun­try’s chief pros­e­cu­tor has said.

Nabil Sadeq said the attack in the Si­nai Penin­sula on Fri­day also left 126 peo­ple wounded.

He said it was car­ried out by 25 to 30 mil­i­tants who ar­rived at the mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd in five all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles.

He says the mil­i­tants sta­tioned them­selves at the mosque’s main door and 12 win­dows be­fore open­ing fire on wor­ship­pers in­side. They also torched seven cars parked out­side.

There was no claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the attack, the dead­li­est by Is­lamic ex­trem­ists in Egypt’s modern his­tory.

The mosque is fre­quented by Sufi Mus­lims, a mys­tic school of Is­lam that mil­i­tants con­sider heretic.

Quot­ing ev­i­dence given to in­ves­ti­ga­tors by sur­vivors, the pros­e­cu­tor’s state­ment said that some of the at­tack­ers were masked. Those who were not sported heavy beards and long hair. The mil­i­tants wore cam­ou­flage trousers and black T-shirts.

Also on Satur­day, the mil­i­tary said, war­planes had tar­geted sev­eral ve­hi­cles in which some of the at­tack­ers were trav­el­ling. All pas­sen­gers of the ve­hi­cles were killed, it added.

It was im­pos­si­ble to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify the claim since the me­dia is vir­tu­ally banned from work­ing in Si­nai.

The chief pros­e­cu­tor’s state­ment was the most de­tailed by au­thor­i­ties on the attack. The ac­count gen­er­ally agreed with what wit­nesses told the As­so­ci­ated Press on Satur­day in the Suez Canal city of Is­mailia, where some of the wounded are in hos­pi­tal.

They spoke of hor­rific scenes dur­ing the 20 min­utes it took the mil­i­tants to kill and maim wor­ship­pers. They spoke of some jump­ing out of win­dows, a stam­pede in a cor­ri­dor lead­ing to the wash­rooms and of chil­dren scream­ing in hor­ror. Some spoke of their nar­row es­cape from death, oth­ers of fam­i­lies that lost all or most of their men.

One wit­ness, Ebid Salem Man­sour, said the imam had barely made it on to the mosque pul­pit to de­liver the ser­mon when in­tense gun­fire rang out.

“We knew that the mosque was under attack by (mil­i­tants),” he said.

Mr Man­sour, a 38-year-old worker in a nearby salt fac­tory, said he set­tled in Bir al-Abd three years ago to es­cape the blood­shed and fight­ing else­where in north­ern Si­nai.

He suf­fered two gun­shot wounds in the legs on Fri­day.

“Ev­ery­one laid down on the floor and kept their heads down. If you raised your head you got shot,” he said.

“The shoot­ing was ran­dom and hys­ter­i­cal at the be­gin­ning and then be­came more de­lib­er­ate. Who­ever they weren’t sure was dead or still breath­ing was shot dead.

“I knew I was in­jured but I was in a sit­u­a­tion that was much scarier than be­ing wounded. I was only sec­onds away from a cer­tain death.”

Is­lamic mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing the lo­cal af­fil­i­ate of the Is­lamic State group, con­sider Su­fis heretics be­cause of their less lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the faith.

Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi vowed that the attack “will not go un­pun­ished” and that Egypt would per­se­vere with its war on ter­ror­ism, but he did not spec­ify what new steps might be taken.

He yes­ter­day or­dered a mau­soleum be built in mem­ory of the vic­tims.

The mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity forces have been wag­ing a tough cam­paign against mil­i­tants in the towns, vil­lages and desert moun­tains of Si­nai, and Egypt has been in a state of emer­gency since April.

Across the coun­try, thou­sands have been ar­rested in a crack­down on sus­pected Is­lamists as well as against other dis­senters and crit­ics, rais­ing con­cern about human rights vi­o­la­tions.

Seek­ing to spread the vi­o­lence, mil­i­tants have over the past year car­ried out deadly bomb­ings on churches in the cap­i­tal of Cairo and other cities, killing dozens of Chris­tians.

The IS af­fil­i­ate is also be­lieved to be be­hind the 2016 down­ing of a Rus­sian pas­sen­ger jet that killed 226 peo­ple over Si­nai.

AMR NABIL

Rel­a­tives of of in­jured wor­ship­pers grieve out­side Suez Canal Univer­sity hos­pi­tal in Is­mailia, Egypt, yes­ter­day

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