Death toll in Egypt mosque attack rises to 200; Trump condemns 'horrible and cowardly' attack

Update 6pm: US President Donald Trump has denounced the attack on a crowded mosque in Egypt which has killed hundreds of people.

Mr Trump condemned in a Twitter post what he called the "Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers (sic) in Egypt."

Militants attacked the mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, settling off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 200 people in the deadliest ever attack on Egyptian civilians by Islamic extremists.

He tweeted: "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!"

Mr Trump's tweet came as he was playing golf at one of his Florida courses with professional players Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.

AP

Update 4.02pm: Death toll in Egypt mosque attack rises to 200

Militants attacked a mosque with explosives and gunfire during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 200 people in the deadliest attack on Egyptian civilians by Islamic extremists.

The attack targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of Islam's mystical movement, in the north Sinai town of Bir al-Abd. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

The IS affiliate has been waging a stepped-up campaign of violence in northern Sinai for years and has claimed deadly bombings on churches in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. It also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226.

Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

But this was the first major militant attack on a Muslim mosque and the startling bloodshed eclipsed any past attacks of its kind, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.

The militants opened fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside the mosque during the sermon, blocking off escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, three police officers on the scene said.

No one claimed responsibility immediately following the attack, but IS has targeted Sufis several times in the area in the past, notably beheading a leading Sufi religious figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, last year and posting photos of the killing online.

Images circulating on social media showed dozens of bloodied bodies wrapped up in sheets laid across the mosque floor, while others revealed dozens of relatives queuing up outside the hospital as ambulances raced back and forth.

Resident Ashraf el-Hefny said many of the victims were workers at a nearby salt firm who had come for Friday services at the mosque, which had contained some 300 worshippers.

"Local people brought the wounded to hospital on their own cars and trucks," he said.

Egypt's state news agency MENA reported that Egypt's presidency declared a three-day mourning period, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

Cairo's international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troopers and forces seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.

State condolences poured in for Egypt, including messages from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the US, Russia, France and the UK condemning the violence.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals IS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry. Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counter-terrorism officers, died in the October 20 attack some 84 miles southwest of the capital, Cairo.

AP

Egypt's Presidency shows Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, center, meeting with officials in Cairo after militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula.(Egyptian Presidency via AP)

Earlier: More than 150 people have been killed after militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshippers in Egypt's volatile Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers.

The extremists attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 25 miles from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon.

The attack, which has left more than 100 others injured, appears to be the latest by the area's Islamic State affiliate.

Egypt mosque attack leaves more than 150 dead

More than 150 people have been killed after militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshippers in Egypt's volatile Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers.

The extremists attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 25 miles from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon.

The attack, which has left more than 100 others injured, appears to be the latest by the area's Islamic State affiliate.

Police officers said victims were being transferred to local hospitals and militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.

The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the IS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military's 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

State news agency MENA reported that Egypt's presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

Cairo's international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troops seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals IS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry.

Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counter-terrorism officers, perished in the October 20 attack some 84 miles south-west of the capital, Cairo.

AP

Police officers said victims were being transferred to local hospitals and militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.

The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the IS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military's 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

State news agency MENA reported that Egypt's presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

Cairo's international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troops seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals IS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry.

Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counter-terrorism officers, perished in the October 20 attack some 84 miles south-west of the capital, Cairo.

AP


KEYWORDS: egypt, mosque, attack

 

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