CAIRO – The death toll in an attack on a mosque in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula rose to at least 305 people – including 27 children – while 128 others were injured, according to the latest figures released on Saturday by the nation’s General Prosecutor, as a three-day period of national mourning began.
The worst attack in Egypt’s recent history was carried out on Friday against al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abd town, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the North Sinai capital of el-Arish, when attackers detonated home-made explosives while the mosque was full of worshippers for Friday prayers, a security official told EFE.
According to a statement published by the Union of the Sinai Tribes, the attackers detonated explosives in the mosque and shot at those who attempted to flee, locking the doors to prevent people from escaping and continued to massacre those trapped inside.
The statement also asserted that a group of gunmen fired on ambulances and medical workers, before fleeing.
The Egyptian military announced that it had launched airstrikes against extremist groups in response to the attack.
“As part of the pursuit of the terrorists responsible for attacking the prayers of al-Rawda mosque, the air force has targeted the terrorists and destroyed a number of vehicles used in the terrorist attack,” Egyptian army spokesperson Tamer el-Refaay said in a statement.
In the hours after the attack, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to avenge the deaths, restore stability in the region and “respond to the act with brutal force.”
“All this is an attempt to stop our efforts in facing terrorism, to destroy our will and our actions to stop the terrible criminal plot aimed at destroying what remains of our region,” he said.
Al-Rawda mosque was a place of worship for Sufi Muslims, a sect of Islam that has been the target of persecution in the past.
Photographs made available by epa showed bloodied bodies laid out on the floor of the mosque as emergency responders scrambled to bring the situation under control.
No terror group has so far come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
Several militant groups are active in that area of Sinai, including Wilayat Sinai, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror organization and has claimed responsibility for the bloodiest attacks in the country in recent years.