A militant group rocked the Sinai Peninsula by opening fire with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades on unsuspecting worshipers at a Sufi mosque, killing 235 people and wounding at least 109 in the deadliest-ever bloodbath in Egypt carried out by Islamic extremists.
The attack was carried out by Islamic militants and specifically targeted Sufis, a mystical sect of Islam that is reviled as heretical by the Islamic State and other radical groups. Whereas ISIS commands a literal interpretation of the Quran, the Sufis follow the teachings of the Islamic holy text more loosely.
In a statement, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said that the attack “will not go unpunished” and announced that Egypt would ramp up its war against terrorism, which has already seen security forces deployed throughout the Sinai Peninsula and has involved thousands of arrests.
While militant groups have targeted Christian churches in the capital city of Cairo and in other parts of Egypt over the last year, Friday’s attack in the town of Bir al-Abd marks the first major attack on a Muslim congregation.
The gunmen arrived to the mosque in four off-road vehicles and quickly charged in, opening fire on the congregants. Survivors recalled hearing explosions set off by rocket-propelled grenades and claimed that the militants mowed people down as they tried to escape the building. Escape routes were reportedly blocked off in advance using burning cars.
“I saw many people on the floor, many dead. I don’t think anyone survived,” 14-year-old Abdullah Abdel-Nasser told the AP, per Breitbart. He was being treated at a hospital in Ismailia alongside 40 other victims, many of whom are also children.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State is the primary extremist group targeting Sufis in the region, spreading anti-Sufi propaganda and calling on supporters to harm Sufi worshipers in the Sinai Peninsula.