In an unprecedented attack on Egypt’s North Sinai which targeted worshippers in a mosque and emergency responders, unidentified terrorists on Friday launched a bomb and gun attack, killing at least 235 persons.
Witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they scampered for dear life.
Reports say the assailants also set fire on parked vehicles in the vicinity to block off access to the al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed, near al-Arish.
No fewer than 130 people were injured, even as over 50 ambulances ferried casualties from al-Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, about 40km west of the city of Arish, to nearby hospitals.
Locals say the followers of Sufism, a mystical branch of Sunni Islam, regularly gathered at the mosque. Some jihadist groups, including so-called Islamic State see Sufis as heretics.
After holding talks with security chiefs in response to the talks, Egyptian President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi vowed to respond with “brute force”, adding that “this act will only increase our will and unity”.
Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the region, continued, “The police and military will avenge our martyrs and restore peace and security.
“This is our response. We will respond with brute force to combat these terrorists and deviants … This is an attempt to deter us from fighting terrorism and to destroy our will, but we are steadfast, and I say to all Egyptians, the battle your are fighting is the most honourable.”
In the defiant television address hours to his grieving nation wherein he offered condolences to the families of victims, the Egyptian President declared three days of mourning.