The death toll in Egypt’s worst Islamist terror attack in modern history has now passed 300 and at least 128 others were wounded. It is the second deadliest terrorist attack of 2017 to date, after the Mogadishu bombings in October that left more than 358 dead.
About 40 militants stormed a Sufi mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate and sprayed gunfire at worshippers during last Friday prayers.
No one has claimed responsibility but the government has blamed so-called Islamic State, IS. The attack has been widely condemned by the international community, with many world leaders issuing official statements and social media posts.
Observers say IS may have been motivated to attack the mosque because they regard Sufis as unbelievers who revere saints and shrines. That would mark a change in strategy – they’ve been attacking the security services on an almost daily basis and more occasionally, Christians and their churches in mainland Egypt.
In response President Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi declared three days of mourning and
has vowed to respond with “the utmost force” and Egyptian authorities were quick to report a counterattack, with the Air Force claiming the pursuit and destruction of some of the militants’ vehicles and weapons stocks. Airstrikes have also been conducted in the mountains around the town.
The Islamist insurgency in Sinai began after President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was toppled by the military in 2013.
Analysts say the Islamic State group wants to create out a Caliphate in the Sinai region similar to the one they had in Syria and Iraq.
The latest massacre of hundreds of Muslims in a mosque will certainly harden public opinion against them in Egypt, say observers.