Hundreds of people have been killed in Egypt with many more injured after militants launched a gun and bomb attack on a mosque in northern Sinai. As the above France 24 video clip indicates, the attack began with explosions (at the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed), after which gunmen peppered the chaotic scene with bullets. As correspondent Alexandre Bucciante stated from Cairo, this is the “the worst attack that [has] happened in Egypt since 1982.”
Since this clip was published, CNBC has reported (via Egypt state television coverage) that at least 235 people — mostly civilians, but some police and first responders are likely included, for CNN notes that ambulance crews appear to have been shot at from “ambush” points — died in the attack, which has not yet been claimed by the Islamic State. However, official word on responsibility will likely come soon, for the region has been plagued by constant attacks since the area’s Islamist insurgency began in 2014.
To date, most of the attacks within the province have targeted police or other security forces (as with suicide car bombers who killed 23 soldiers in July), but the New York Times reveals why this particular mosque was likely targeted:
The worshipers at the mosque were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that some orthodox Muslims and Sunni extremists consider heretical. The Islamic State had threatened and killed a number of Sufis in Bir al-Abd in recent months, but the group never targeted a place of worship, the cleric said.
CNN, which reports that the mosque has sustained “considerable” damage from multiple explosions, also stresses the rare nature of such an attack on a place of worship in Egypt, although ISIS-affiliated militants have persisted in targeting security personnel on a near-daily basis. Following the tragedy, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has declared a three-day period of national mourning.