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Egypt mosque attack death toll rises, Egypt president vows forceful response

The attack started with bomb explosions around the mosque and masked gunmen then shot at the panic-stricken worshippers as they were trying to escape

  • People stand outside Al Rawdah mosque, where a bomb exploded, in Bir Al-Abed, Egypt.Image Credit: REUTERS
  • People walk outside the Suez Canal University hospital where injured worshippers receive treatment.Image Credit: AP
  • Sulieman Awad receives medical treatment at the Suez Canal University hospital in Ismailia, Egypt.Image Credit: AP
  • Head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate Diaa Rashwan, briefs the press on the militant attack.Image Credit: AP
  • Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Al Rawdah mosqueImage Credit: AFP
  • Rescue personnel at the site of the bomb blast at Al Rawda mosque in North Sinai. The blast was followed by guImage Credit: Twitter
  • Gunmen set off a bomb and opened fire at a packed mosque during Friday prayers.Image Credit: Twitter
  • Image Credit: Twitter
  • Image Credit: Twitter
  • Image Credit: Twitter

Cairo: Egypt's President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi has vowed to respond forcefully after attackers killed hundreds of worshippers in a packed mosque in restive North Sinai province, the country's deadliest attack in recent memory.

Egypt’s chief prosecutor raised the death toll in Sinai mosque attack to 305, including 27 children; adding that at least 128 were injured.

Al Sisi declared three days of mourning would begin on Saturday, the day after the gun and bomb assault on the Al Rawdah mosque, roughly 40km west of the North Sinai capital of Al Arish.

People walk outside a mosque that was attacked in the northern city of Arish, Sinai. - Twitter

In a televised speech the president pledged to "respond with brutal force", adding that "the army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period".

Victims are taken to the hospital after the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on Nov. 24, 2017.- AFP

Several hours later Egyptian air force jets destroyed vehicles used in the attack and "terrorist" locations where weapons and ammunition were stocked, an army spokesman said.

Deadliest attack 

Prosecutors said the mosque attack on Friday is the deadliest in Egypt in two years.

Around 103 people were also injured, the prosecutors added, according to the official television.

The attack started with bomb explosions around the mosque, survivors and security sources said.

Masked gunmen then shot at the panic-stricken worshippers as they were trying to leave the mosque.

Gunmen attacked a crowded mosque in Egypt's restive North Sinai province. - Twitter

The attack targeted the Al Rawdah mosque west of Al Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai during the weekly Friday prayers.

The gunmen also shot at ambulances that were trying to evacuate the victims from the site, state television reported.

A damaged car at the site of the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on Nov. 24, 2017. - AFP

The attack is seen as a turning point in assaults by extremists whose previous assaults mainly targeted security forces and Egypt's Christian minority.

Shaikh Mohammad tweets

"The world was shocked by Friday’s terrorist attack targeting the Al Rawdha Mosque in Egypt. 235 innocent people were martyred. Shame on those who killed them," His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai tweeted.

"May Allah protect Egypt, its people and help us to be Egypt’s supporter forever," he added. 

Egypt declared nationwide mourning for three days for victims of Friday’s attack.

President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi held a crisis meeting with a security committee comprising ministers of the defence and interior as well as chiefs of intelligence services and discussed consequences of the assault, the television added without further details.

Al Sissi vowed "deterrent and firm" punishment against perpetrators  and financiers of the attack.

 "This dastardly act, which reflects inhumanity of its perpetrators, will not go without a deterrent and firm punishment," a presidential statement said.

Location map of the attack. - AFP

"The hand of justice will reach everyone who participated, supported, financed or incited this cowardly attack on innocent worshippers," the statement added.

Images on local media showed the dead covered with bed sheets inside the mosque that belongs to a local Sufi order.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Egypt’s deadliest in two years.

Attack on Russian plane

In October 2015, a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai shortly after take-off from the resort town of Sharm Al Shaikh, killing all the 224 people on board. Daesh terrorists claimed that attack.

North Sinai is a hotbed for militants, who have carried out a string of deadly attacks mainly against security forces since 2013 when the army, then led by Al Sissi, deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi.

UAE condemns terror attack

The UAE has condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the terrorist blast that targeted Al Rawdah Mosque in Bir Al Abed, North Sinai Governorate, on Friday.

Over a hundred worshippers were killed or injured in the attack.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed its vehement condemnation and denunciation of this terrorist act, which contravenes human values and principles, as well as the teachings of the Islamic Sharia and other religions.

Security forces take security measures at the site of the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on Nov. 24, 2017. - AFP

"This horrible crime exposes, beyond doubt, the ugly face of terrorism that does not respect the human soul and the sanctity of places of worship. It also exposes the false allegations of extremist groups, which dons the cloak of religion to justify their barbaric acts, which Islam is innocent from," the statement said.

Egyptians gather around bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of Al-Arish, on Nov. 24, 2017- AFP

Sissi vows to punish mosque attackers and financiers

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has vowed "deterrent and firm" punishment against perpetrators of the fatal attack on the mosque in North Sinai.

 

"This dastardly act, which reflects inhumanity of its perpetrators, will not go without a deterrent and firm punishment," his office said in a statement.

"The hand of justice will reach everyone who participated, supported, financed or incited this cowardly attack on innocent worshipers," he added.

Al Azhar condemns deadly mosque attack

Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's leading centre of learning, has condemned the attack on the mosque in North Sinai that left 200 dead.

"Shedding blood, desecrating houses of God and terrorizing worshippers are corrupt deeds, which must be struck hard and firmly," head of Al Azhar Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb said in a statement.

"After targeting churches [by militants], the turn has come for mosques as though terrorism wants to unify Egyptians in death and devastation. But terrorism will be routed," the top Muslim cleric added.

Emergency workers take victims to the hospital after the Egypt Sinai mosque bombing in Al-Arish, Egypt on Nov. 24, 2017. - AFP

In recent months, Daesh terrorists have claimed a series of deadly attacks on churches of Egypt's Christian minority.

Al Sissi holds emergency meeting 

President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi convened an emergency security meeting soon after the attack, state television reported.

Egypt's security forces are battling a stubborn Daesh insurgency in north Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since fighting there intensified over the last three years.

With inputs from Agencies

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