The Latest: Survivors’ horrific accounts of Egypt attack
CAIRO (AP) — The Latest on developments in Egypt (all times local):
Survivors and Egypt’s top prosecutor are giving detailed accounts of Friday’s massacre at a mosque in northern Sinai.
They describe intense gunfire ringing out as the mosque was shaken by blasts, and children screaming as their parents were mowed down. A stampede occurred as people rushed for an exit, while others tried desperately to force their way out of windows.
They say the attackers arrived in five SUVs, took positions across from the mosque’s door and windows. Just as the imam was about to deliver his Friday sermon from atop the pulpit, they opened fire and tossed grenades at the estimated 500 worshippers inside.
When the violence finally stopped, more than 300 people were dead, including 27 children, and 128 injured.
It was Egypt’s deadliest attack by Islamic extremists in the country’s modern history, a grim milestone in a long-running fight against an insurgency led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.
The main gateway for Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip was closed following the attack on a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The Rafah crossing was expected to open temporarily on Saturday. But following the attack, travelers were told they would not be able to cross after all.
On Saturday, guards were the only people to be seen at the crossing. Ruling party Hamas says 30,000 people have been waiting for a chance to travel. Thus far, Rafah has opened for people exiting Gaza only 17 days this year.
Egypt has kept Rafah largely sealed off since 2013, after the ouster of Egypt’s elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi while authorities have been fighting an Islamist insurgency.
Hamas, which has wielded power in Gaza since it ousted forces loyal to the Western-backed Fatah faction in 2007, condemned the Sinai attack.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor says in a statement that the attack on a Sinai mosque has killed 305 people, including 27 children.
In a statement Saturday, Nabil Sadeq says the attack a day earlier also left 128 people wounded.
Sadeq says it was carried out by 25-30 militants who arrived at the mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd in five all-terrain vehicles. He says the militants stationed themselves at the mosque’s main door and 12 windows before opening fire on worshippers inside. They also torched seven cars belonging to the worshippers that were parked outside.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, the deadliest by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s modern history. The mosque is frequented by Sufi Muslims, a mystic school of Islam that militants consider heretic.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has ordered the construction of a mausoleum in memory of the 235 people killed by Islamic militants inside a mosque in northern Sinai.
A presidential statement did not say where the mausoleum would stand or who would be commissioned to build it, but the decision to have one reflects the depth of grief felt by the government over the death of so many people in Friday’s attack, the deadliest by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s modern history. The mosque was frequented by Sufis, followers of a mystic school of Islam.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extremist Islamic State group has repeatedly declared that it views Sufis as heretics and vowed to rid Sinai, and Egypt, of them. Millions of Egyptians practice Sufi rituals, like reciting poetry, dancing and singing as means to be closer to God.
Egypt’s military says warplanes have struck several vehicles used in the attack on a northern Sinai mosque that killed 235 people, destroying and killing all passengers.
The military’s Saturday statement said the vehicles were hit in the vicinity of the previous day’s attack on a mosque in the Sinai town of Bir al-Abd, the deadliest by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s modern history.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extremist Islamic State group has in the past vowed to rid Sinai, and Egypt, of Sufis. A local IS affiliate is spearheading the insurgency in Sinai, where government forces have battled militants for years.
The mosque was frequented by Sufis, members of a mystic movement within Islam that’s viewed by extremists as heretic.
Militants assaulted a crowded mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during prayers in the deadliest-ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt.
They blasted helpless worshippers Friday with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades and blocked their escape routes. At least 235 people were killed before the assailants got away.
The attack in the troubled northern part of the Sinai targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of a mystic movement within Islam.
Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.
The startling bloodshed in the town of Bir al-Abd also wounded at least 109, according to the state news agency. It offered the latest sign that the Egyptian government has failed to deter an IS-led insurgency.