At Least 235 Dead In Egypt’s Deadliest Attack

Armed attackers on Friday killed at least 235 worshippers in a bomb and gun assault on a packed mosque in Egypt’s restive North Sinai province, in the country’s deadliest attack in recent memory.  

A bomb explosion ripped through the Rawda mosque frequented by Sufis roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish before gunmen opened fire on those gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.

Witnesses said the assailants had surrounded the mosque with all-terrain vehicles then planted a bomb outside.

The gunmen then mowed down the panicked worshippers as they attempted to flee and used the congregants’ vehicles they had set alight to block routes to the mosque.

The state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that 235 people were killed and 109 wounded in the attack, the scale of which is unprecedented in a four-year insurgency by Islamist extremist groups.

US President Donald Trump condemened on Twitter the “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshippers.”

A furious Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of mourning and pledged to “respond with brutal force” to the attack.

“The army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period,” he added in a televised speech.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to Sisi, calling the attack “striking for its cruelty and cynicism”, while condemnations poured in from Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

UK foreign minister Boris Johnson decried the “barbaric attack”, while his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian labelled it “despicable”.

– IS targeting of Sufis –

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bloodshed.

The Islamic State group’s Egypt branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and also civilians accused of working with the authorities, in attacks in the north of the Sinai peninsula.

They have also targeted followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam as well as Christians.

The victims of Friday’s attack included civilians and conscripts praying at the mosque.

A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights IS told AFP that the mosque is known as a place of gathering for Sufis.

The Islamic State group shares the puritan Salafi view that Sufis are heretics for seeking the intercession of saints.

The jihadists had previously kidnapped and beheaded an elderly Sufi leader, accusing him of practising magic which Islam forbids, and abducted Sufi practitioners later released after “repenting.”

An IS propaganda outlet had published an interview earlier with the commander of its “morality police” in Sinai who said their “first priority was to combat the manifestations of polytheism including Sufism.”

The group has killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings in Sinai and other parts of Egypt, forcing many to flee the peninsula.

The military has struggled to quell jihadists who pledged allegiance to IS in November 2014.

IS regularly conducts attacks against soldiers and policemen in the peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, although the frequency and scale of such attacks has diminished over the past year.

The jihadists have since increasingly turned to civilian targets, attacking not only Christians and Sufis but also Bedouin Sinai inhabitants accused of working with the army.

Aside from IS, Egypt also faces a threat from Al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists who operate out of neighbouring Libya.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Islam — Supporters of Islam in Arabic — claimed an October ambush in Egypt’s Western Desert that killed at least 16 policemen.

Many of those killed belonged to the interior ministry’s secretive National Security Service.

The military later conducted air strikes on the attackers, killing their leader Emad al-Din Abdel Hamid, a most wanted jihadist who was a military officer before joining an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Libya’s militant stronghold of Derna.

AFP

276 Persons Dead In Somalia’s Deadliest Bombing

Somalia's Deadliest Bombing Kills 276, Injures 300
A picture taken on October 15, 2017 shows a general view of the scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the centre of Mogadishu. A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on October 14, 2017 PHOTO: Mohamed ABDIWAHAB / AFP

Desperate Somalis searched for news of missing loved-ones on Monday after a massive truck bomb in Mogadishu killed at least 276 people and left 300 injured in the deadliest ever attack to hit the conflict-torn nation.

Residents of the Somali capital, while wearily accustomed to regular bombs and attacks by Islamist militants, have been left stunned by the monster explosion Saturday which gutted surrounding buildings and left victims burned beyond recognition.

A statement from the information ministry on Monday said “276 people were killed in the blast… and 300 wounded were admitted at the different hospitals in Mogadishu.”

The government said it had set up an emergency committee to help relatives find the missing, with a crisis centre in the capital that residents can turn to.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

The group has a history of not claiming attacks whose scale provokes massive public outrage.

Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP that many of the victims were “burned beyond recognition” in what he described as “the deadliest attack ever.”

Turkey sent a military plane full of medical supplies to Mogadishu on Monday, also evacuating some of the injured for treatment.

The blast occurred in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses in the city’s northwest. Several experts told AFP the truck was probably carrying at least 500 kilogrammes (1,100 pounds) of explosives.

A second car bomb exploded two hours later, injuring two people.

Abdulahi Nuradin was one of many helping friends and family hunting for news of the missing.

“It has been more than 24 hours now and we don’t have any traces or information about the sister of my friend. We can assume she is dead, with her flesh somewhere amongst the horribly burned dead bodies,” he told AFP.

“We went to several hospitals to seek any information but to no avail, the family is now 99 percent convinced she is dead, I saw so many severed pieces of human flesh at the hospitals,” he added.

Saturday’s blast was condemned by the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Turkey and the African Union.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city would switch off the lights of the Eiffel Tower on Monday night in homage to the victims of the attack.

– ‘Devastation beyond imagination’ –

Local government official Muhidin Ali said more than 100 bodies who were impossible to identify had already been buried.

“The gruesome dead bodies were displayed at the hospitals for relatives but a few were recognised and most of them not at all, the devastation is something beyond the imagination of humankind,” he said.

The previous deadliest assault took place in October 2011, when a truck bomb targeting a government office left 82 dead and 150 injured.

Saturday’s blast, the worst in Somalia’s history, came six years after Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union and Somali troops.

While they were also pushed out of major towns across southern Somalia the militants still control rural areas and launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighbouring Kenya.

According to the Nairobi-based Sahan thinktank, at least 723 people were killed and over 1,000 injured in bomb attacks in 2016 in Somalia.

– ‘Targeting innocent people’ –

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, declared three days of mourning as he visited the attack site and then met with some of the wounded at a nearby hospital.

“Today’s incident was a horrible attack carried out by Al-Shabaab against innocent civilians that was not aimed at specific Somali government targets,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

“This shows how these violent elements are ruthlessly and indiscriminately targeting innocent people.”

Mogadishu’s mayor, Tabid Abdi Mohamed, also visited those wounded in the blast and said the horror of the attack was “unspeakable”.

“There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognise them.”

Hundreds of people, chanting anti-violence slogans and wearing red or white bandanas around their heads in a show of grief, took to the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday to condemn the deadly attack that has shocked Somalians.

“We have seen what the terrorists can mercilessly do by shedding the blood of innocent civilians,” the mayor told the protesters after they ended their march at a square in southern Mogadishu. “We need to stand united against them”.

The devastation caused was widespread. Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”

Security officials said hundreds of people had been in the area at the time of the blast, with police saying it was difficult to get a precise number of victims because the bodies had been taken to different medical centres while others had been taken directly by their relatives for burial.

AFP