Update: After holding an emergency cabinet meeting, Egypt’s el-Sisi, speaking publicly about today’s attack for the first time, vowed that the perpetrators wouldn’t go unpunished. El-Sisi earlier declared a State of Emergency and three-day morning period following the attack.
However, many on twitter blamed el-Sisi’s policies for emboldening the militants.
Worst thing about the massive terror attack in #Sinai ?
It will give justification to the likes of #Sisi and #Trump and their so called War on Terror.#Egyptians will pay with more loss of freedom- if that is at all possible.
— Amr Khalifa (@Cairo67Unedited) November 24, 2017
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Update: President Donald Trump has offered his condolences to the families of the victims in today’s shooting at a Mosque in the Northern Sinai Peninsula: The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
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Early Friday, militants armed with guns and explosives stormed a mosque in Egypt’s troubled northern Sinai Peninsula on Friday, killing at least 235 people and wounding at least 120 others, according to Bloomberg, in what appears to be the deadliest mass killing in Egypt since the 2013 attack in Rabaa al-Adawiya, where soldiers loyal to present-day leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi murdered as many as 900 Islamists who had gathered in the square for a nonviolent sit-in.
The assault west of the town of El-Arish in Sinai targeted people gathered for Friday prayers, when mosques in Egypt often overflow with worshipers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Yet Sinai province, a triangular piece of land bordering southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, has been a key battleground in the government’s battle against a local branch of Islamic State. Al-Arabiya and other local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis. Islamic State regards them as apostates because they revere saints and shrines, which hardliners believe is tantamount to heresy.
El-Sisi has declared three days of mourning, according to Shorouk News. State TV reports five militants were involved in the attack.
While the bombings aren’t seen as threatening the stability of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s government, they’ve devastated the tourist industry, a vital pillar of the economy, according to Bloomberg. El-Sisi called a meeting with the security committee following the mass killing, according to the state-run television said.
Grisly images of the attack have emerged on social media showing bodies covered in bloody sheets.
— Sinai News – ????? ???? (@sinai_news_1) November 24, 2017
According to Bloomberg, militants in four vehicles drove up to the mosque, set off an improvised explosive device outside the building and opened fire on people praying inside, according to a senior official in the north Sinai security directorate who asked not to be named. Locals took up weapons to help thwart the attackers, the official said. The suspects fled as security forces arrived.
While the majority of the militant violence has been confined to the northern part of the Sinai, it has on occasion spilled over to Cairo and other main cities. Meanwhile, attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have killed dozens.
According to Russia Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to al-Sisi, describing Friday’s attack as cruel and cynical.
“The murder of civilians in the course of a religious service is striking with its cruelty and cynicism. We are once again convinced that the notion of human morality is absolutely alien to terrorists,” Putin said in a telegram of condolences.
As the BBC points out, Northern Sinai has been living under a media blackout over the past few years. No media organisations, including state-sponsored media, have been allowed to travel there.
Friday’s mass killing comes after at least 54 police, including 20 officers and 34 conscripts, were killed during a raid on a militant hideout south-west of Cairo. The team was ambushed, and the ensuing firefight resulted in one of the largest death tolls for Egypt’s security forces in recent years. Authorities replaced the military’s chief of staff and almost a dozen top police officials following the incident. Of course, the major difference beteen Friday’s attack and the 2013 massacre at Rabaa al-Adawiya is that the latter was perpetrated by the Egyptian government, which has tried to wipe out all memory of the killing in the years since.