Al Rawdah mosque, located in Bir El-Abd in North Sinai's Al-Arish province (Photo: Al-Ahram)
At least 235 worshippers have been killed by gunmen who attacked a mosque affiliated with Sufi groups in Egypt’s North Sinai during Friday prayers, in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the country in recent years.
A statement from the prosecutor-general’s office on Friday afternoon said 235 people had been killed and at least 109 injured in the attack on Al-Rawdah mosque in Al-Radwa village situated between Bir Al-Abed and Al-Arish ciies.
The president’s office has announced a nationwide three-day mourning following the terrorist attack, state TV has reported.
Health ministry sources in the governorate said 30 ambulances were deployed to the scene to transport the injured to Arish Bir Al-Abed and Arish General hospitals.
Eyewitnesses told Ahram Online that improvised explosive devices were detonated at the mosque initially, then gunmen fired at worshippers, including targeting ambulances transferring the injured to hospital.
The Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis terrorist group have pledged allegiance to the IS group and have previously executed Soliman Harraz, a Sufi sheikh on November 2016; two Sufi shrines in Mazar village were also targeted with explosives.
"The area is known for the existence of Sufi Muslim groups, and it does not have an intensive security presence as it is outside of Arish and far from the traditional areas that host those militant groups," Mohamed Hamad, son of a tribal sheikh, told Ahram Online.
Hamad added that the long distance between Al-Rawda village, Bir Al-Abed city and Ismailia delayed the arrival of the ambulances, while the targeting of the ambulances increased the number of victims.
In an official statement, Prosecutor-general Nabil Sadek ordered that Ismailia prosecutors and high state security prosecutors be deployed to the scene to carry out needed investigations.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is set to hold a meeting with a security committee to discuss the repercussions of the terrorist attack.
Egypt's security forces have been fighting an Islamist insurgency based in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula which has gained pace since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The insurgency has mostly targeted security forces, with attacks on military and police checkpoints common place.