The militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshippers in the volatile Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers, killing at least 184 people in what appeared to be the latest attack by the area’s affiliate of ISIS, says Egyptian officials.
Victims were being transferred to local hospitals, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief reporters. They said the ISIS militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.
Police officers said that the extremists attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 40 kilometres from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon.
The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
Egypt’s presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.
Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals ISIS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.