At least 235 people have been killed in Egypt after militants bombed a Sufi mosque Friday morning, before opening fire on the worshippers as they tried to escape, according to a statement by Egypt’s attorney general.
The attack took place in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, and the death toll has been revised upwards several times already and is likely to increase again. At least 109 people were wounded in the attack.
The militants attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 125 miles northeast of the capital, Cairo. No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, but several news outlets noted that Egypt’s government has struggled to contain an Islamic State insurgency in the area. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, as militants have preferred to attack Coptic Christian churches and security officials.
Four off-road vehicles pulled up outside the mosque before detonating bombs inside the mosque, and opening fire on worshippers who were listening to the sermon, according to police officers who spoke to the AP. The militants had also cut off escape routes by blowing up vehicles and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads around the mosque.
The worshippers at the mosque were followers of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, a branch of Islam which is seen as heretical by IS.
The attackers did not rush away from the scene, even as emergency services arrived, opening fire on several ambulances, Ahmed el-Ansari, a senior government health official, told state television.
The sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula has previously been described as a “nesting ground for terrorism and terrorists” by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi following a suicide bombing that left 31 soldiers killed in 2014.
The Islamist insurgency in the region has increased since the military overthrew the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013.