Expect ‘brutal force’ after mosque attack

2017-11-26 05:59
President Abdel Fattah el-Sis. Picture: GCIS

President Abdel Fattah el-Sis. Picture: GCIS

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Militants armed with guns and explosives stormed a crowded mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula on Friday, killing at least 305 people, including 27 children, and injuring at least 128 in the deadliest single attack in the country in recent memory.

The scale of the assault and the choice of target – people gathered for Friday prayers at a mosque frequented by Sufi Muslims – stunned the nation, drew international condemnation and triggered air raids by Egypt’s military.

Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, but Islamic fundamentalists, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Sinai Peninsula, a triangular piece of land bordering Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal, has been the main battleground in the government’s fight against local militants who’ve declared allegiance to Islamic State.

Islamic State-Sinai province has killed hundreds of police and soldiers in recent years.

Over the past 12 months, it has increasingly turned its guns on civilians, with attacks on churches packed for Christmas and Easter prayers, and now on Muslim worshippers.

“This is a shift in the tactics of the terrorists,” said Hossam El-Rifai, a member of Parliament for northern Sinai.

“An attack on civilians at Friday prayers is not something we have been used to seeing.”

While the violence isn’t seen as threatening the stability of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government, it has devastated the tourist industry, a vital pillar of an economy that’s struggling to come back to life after years of political upheaval.

The Egyptian army retaliated with an air raid that it claimed killed some of the attackers involved in Friday’s massacre.

It said it launched airstrikes that destroyed some of the vehicles used by the attackers, and hit jihadist hideouts containing weapons and ammunition stores.

Army spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai said the Egyptian Air Force chased down the assailants who, according to officials, arrived in four vehicles and carried out the attack during noon prayers.

“The air force chased the terrorists and discovered and destroyed a number of vehicles that were involved in carrying out the brutal terrorist attack ... Those on board were also killed,” al-Rifai said.

El-Sisi made a televised statement vowing to avenge the dead and restore stability.

He also said that those who supported, financed or incited the attack would face justice.

“We will respond to this act with brutal force.” – Reuters, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera

Read more on:    egypt

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