At least 235 have been killed and over 100 wounded in a suicide attack as people gathered for Friday prayers at a mosque in Egypt's North Sinai Nov. 24. Women and children are among the dead. President Sisi vowed a "brutal" response to what is the deadliest militant attack in the country's history. Militants reportedly opened fire on worshippers after the bomb blast, which took place at al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 40 kilometers from the North Sinai provincial capital of al-Arish. Before the attack, the mosque was surrounded by all-terrain vehicles, cutting off escape from the massacre. The mosque is said to be run by a local Sufi order, and includes a zawiya—a lodge used by order members for prayer and chanting. Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the massacre, followers of Sufi Islam have faced numerous attacks by ISIS cells operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
A local from al-Arish, who belongs to the Sufi order, told Middle East Eye that "attacks and harassments have been ongoing to our people." He added: "Since 2011 several shrines often honored and respected by us have been blown to pieces whether by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]. Also this March, two of our loyal and pious elder sheikhs were beheaded by the terrorists."
Referring to previous attacks targeting Copts, he added: "The state did lots of things when the Christians were attacked—let's see what it will do when Muslims are slaughtered when they are praying."
A local ISIS propaganda outlet, named as Nabaa newsletter, recently published an interview with the commander of its "morality police" in Sinai who said their "first priority was to combat the manifestations of polytheism including Sufism."
The mosque attack comes amid ongoing clashes in the Sinai. A Nov. 20 bomb attack and ambush on a security convoy in North Sinai left 18 Egyptian police troops dead. ISIS claimed that attack through its official propaganda arm, Amaq. (MEE, MEO, AFP)
Egypt launches air-strikes in Sinai
Egyptian jets have carried out air-strikes on a mountainous area of North Sinai, apparently destroying vehicles used in the Rawdah mosuqe attack. (Sky News) The mosque is run by the Gaririya Sufi order, named for its founder Sheikh Eid Abu Garir, who hailed from the local Sawarka tribe and the Garirat clan. The tribe had apparently been collaborating with authorities against ISIS. Reports indicate that the mosque had been ordered by the Islamic State's "Province of Sinai" to stop holding Sufi rituals just a week before the attack. (Madamasr, Madamasr)
New massacre of Coptic Christians
Two gunmen killed nine people when they opened fire on a Coptic church in Helwan, just south of Cairo, on Dec. 29. Security forces shot dead one of the assailants in an exchange of fire outside the Church of Mar Mina, while the other assailant was arrested. ISIS has claimed responsibility. (Ahram Online, Reuters)