Death toll rises above 300 in Egypt mosque attack

There has been an ongoing ISIS insurgency in the region for years.

Map of the region in which the November 24, 2017 al-Rawdah mosque attack took place. (CREDIT: MSNBC)
Map of the region in which the November 24, 2017 al-Rawdah mosque attack took place. (CREDIT: MSNBC)

Militants using bombs and guns killed an estimated 305 people and wounded at least 128 at a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai province in Egypt during morning prayers on Friday, according to state media. Attackers killed almost 30 children.

The attack at the Sufi al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed was committed by militants in four off-road vehicles, who cut off escape routes with burning car wrecks to increase the death toll. They shot at people fleeing the scene and then ambulances there to treat the wounded. It appeared to be the largest and latest attack by the area’s local Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate, according to the Associated Press.

The Sinai Province group, affiliated with the Islamic State, has killed hundreds of police, civilians, and soldiers in an ongoing regional insurgency over the last three years.

The AP reported that the attack “was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation” since the insurgency began, after the military overthrew an “elected but divisive Islamist president.”

It’s very difficult for outside media to gauge how the fight in Sinai is progressing because the Sisi government has banned journalists from the entire peninsula. According to Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egyptian journalists said in a survey last year that “journalism is over in Sinai” and “the only reporting we can do is to follow the army’s story. Anything else is a prison wish.”

Last month, two bombings in Afghanistan killed nearly 90 people in a similar wave of attacks by Islamic State affiliates targeting mosques in the region.

As of press time, the White House released an official statement condemning the attacks, and President Donald Trump tweeted additional condemnations: “Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

However, Trump later tweeted in response to the attack that the U.S. would “Need the WALL, need the BAN,” apparently referring to his campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to ban travelers to the U.S. from some countries, including Libya.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration was criticized for being silent after an attack on an American mosque in Minnesota.


UPDATE, 11/24/2017: Egyptian authorities have begun to carry out air strikes in mountainous areas in North Sinai believed to house militants, Reuters reported, citing security sources and eyewitnesses.


UPDATE, 11/25/2017: The story has been updated to reflect a new estimate of the number killed and wounded in the attack, and to include new statements from President Trump and the White House.