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Egypt: Death toll from Sinai mosque bombing during Friday prayers hits 305

25th Nov 2017
Egypt: Death toll from Sinai mosque bombing during Friday prayers hits 305

By Hussein al-Qabbani and Viola Fahmi

 

CAIRO (AA): The death toll from a bomb that went off outside a mosque in the city of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula following Friday prayers has climbed to a whopping 305, according to official sources. Gunmen then opened fire on worshippers as they tried to flee. The attack took place during Friday prayer sermon.

At least 109 others were injured in the blast, which occurred in the city’s Al-Rawda neighborhood.

After detonating the bomb, a group of attackers opened fire on worshippers and then attempted to stop ambulances from accessing the area, according to Egypt’s Nile News television channel.

The terrorists also blocked 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.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi reportedly plans to hold an emergency meeting of the government’s Security Committee later this evening to mull a response to the deadly attack, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

The meeting, the source added, would also be attended by the ministers of defense and interior and the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The Egyptian presidency, meanwhile, has declared a three-day countrywide state of mourning for the victims.

The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a low-intensity militant insurgency since mid-2013, when the army ousted and imprisoned Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in a bloody military coup.

The insurgency has been largely confined to the northern Sinai Peninsula, but sporadic attacks have also occurred on the Egyptian mainland, including capital Cairo.

The terrorist attack received significant condemnation from around the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump, UK PM Theresa May and France President Emmanuel Macron offered their condolences to Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over the phone, according to an Egyptian presidential statement.

Trump said, Washington stands by Egypt and backs its fight against terrorism, calling the incident “shocking,” the statement read.

Also on Friday, Trump condemned the “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers” over Twitter.

“The world cannot tolerate terrorism,” he tweeted. “We must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

Macron told Sisi, France is in full support of the Egyptian government, saying, “Paris is willing to increase cooperation with Egypt in combatting terrorism which became a global threat.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also strongly condemned the incident with a statement issued on its website.

“We strongly condemn the terrorist attack perpetrated today [Nov. 24] on a mosque located in the west of Al-Arish [northern Sinai], causing many casualties and wounded people,” the statement said.

“We convey our condolences to the families and brotherly people of Egypt, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” it added.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also called his Egyptian counterpart during the day to offer condolences.

Stella Kyriakides, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said in a statement: “We must stand firm against the threat of terrorism, which knows no borders.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, offered his condolences to Sisi, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.

“We are once again convinced that terrorists are completely alien to the notion of human morality,” Putin asserted.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, tweeted: “Appalled by the sickening attack on a mosque in North Sinai. Condolences to all those in Egypt affected by this evil and cowardly act.”

The U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter, “Deeply saddened by the abhorrent attack on a mosque in North Sinai, #Egypt. My sincere condolences to all those affected by such a barbaric act.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also weighed in, saying: “I learned with horror of the ignoble attack that hit a mosque in the Northern Sinai, costing the lives of over a hundred worshippers during the Friday prayer.”

Speaking via Twitter, he added: “I send my condolences to the families, as well as to the authorities of the country.”

NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg, also speaking via Twitter, said: “I condemn the barbaric terrorist attack on a mosque in North Sinai. My thoughts are with all those affected and the people of our partner, Egypt.”

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued a statement on the mosque attack in Egypt.

“I am shocked and horrified by today’s terrorist attack in the al-Rawda mosque in Bir-Al-Abed, which killed and injured hundreds of worshippers.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the friends and families of the victims of today’s attack. We hope for a complete and rapid recovery for all those injured,” he added.

“Canada condemned the attack and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Egypt in this difficult time.”

Qatari Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani expressed his “strong condemnation” of the attack, according to the press agency QNA. “We express our condolences to the families of the victims and to the Egyptian people, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he said in the message to Sisi.

Kuwait also expressed its condolences to the “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, his people, his government over “the heinous attack.”

According to the official Saudi News Agency, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz offered condolences over the phone. He said his country stands by Egypt by all means.

For its part, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry confirmed Bahrain’s solidarity with Egypt, saying, “We strongly condemn this terror crime which contradicts the principles of Islam and other religions, and humanity,” according to a statement released by the ministry.

Oman and Yemen were also part of the countries that expressed condolences to Egypt.

Condemning the attack, Tunisia called on the international community to set up anti-terror mechanisms in fighting terrorism effectively.

The Head of the Presidential Council of the Libyan Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj expressed condolences to the Egyptian government and people about the attack in a written statement.

Sudan and Jordan also denounced the attack, and confirmed their firm stand by the Egyptian people in fighting terrorism.

The Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement Hamas also condemned the deadly bombing, which occurred not far from Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas condemns in the strongest terms the criminal bombing targeting worshipers at Al-Rawda Mosque in Sinai’s Bir al-Abd region,” the group said, going on to extend its condolences to the friends and families of the victims.

Hamas also called upon “God Almighty to protect Egypt — and all Muslim countries — from misfortune and provide them with safety and stability”.

Additional report by The Muslim News

 

[Photo:  People gather at the site of the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on November 24, 2017. Photographer: Stringer/AA]

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