Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 12:55 PM
By: Eric Schwartzberg - Staff Writer
WEST CHESTER TWP. — At least 235 people were killed when gunmen opened fire and bombed a mosque in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula on Friday. Government officials said 109 more had been injured in the attack — among the deadliest in Egypt’s history.
Images from inside the building showed dozens of bodies wrapped in blood-soaked cloth lined up on the carpeted floor.
Police sources told the Associated Press that men in four off-road vehicles opened fire on worshippers in the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Al Rawdah.
Shakila Ahmad, president of the board of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Twp., condemned those who carried it out the attack when she was reached for comment this morning by this media outlet.
“… it’s important for people to know that these heinous individuals who commit these atrocities are proving themselves to be …. not Muslim, not adhering to Islamic principles, and not adhering to any sense of humanity,” she said. “Whoever is any part of such … is an evil plague upon all of us and should never ever be associated with Islam or Muslims.”
Ahmad said she was not immediately aware of anyone directly affected by the tragedy.
Two eyewitnesses and a security source told Reuters that the suspected militants targeted supporters of the security forces attending prayers. Citing official sources, the state-run MENA news agency reported that the mosque is largely attended by Sufi Muslims — a form of Islam considered heretical by some conservatives and extremists like the Islamic State group.
Around 50 ambulances were transferring victims to hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. A statement issued by Egypt’s General Prosecutor Nabil Sadiq put the death toll at 235, with at least 109 others wounded.
A Health Ministry official told Al Jazeera TV that “there were many people inside the mosque — it’s only a small mosque.”
Gunmen shot worshippers fleeing the initial attack, he added.
There has been a wave of attacks on the country’s Coptic Christian minority, but strikes on mosques are rare and Friday’s onslaught shocked many throughout Egypt.
While Egypt’s security forces have been battling Islamist militants in northern Sinai for years, violence picked up after the 2013 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. A new group called Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for a bloody October attack on Egyptian police.
The conflict has killed hundreds of soldiers and militants over the years, although journalists are banned from the area and exact numbers are unclear.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared three days of mourning and called a meeting of security officials after the attack.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “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!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report with Charlene Gubash reporting from Cairo and F. Brinley Bruton reporting from London.