Suspected militants have launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province, killing at least 184 people, state media say. Witnesses say the al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed, near al-Arish, was targeted during Friday prayers.
Local police said men in four off-road vehicles opened fire on worshippers, AP reported. Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the region, which has intensified since 2013.
There have been regular attacks blamed on militants on the Sinai peninsula, but this is the deadliest assault of its kind. Pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque. At least 125 people were also wounded, reports say.
One report said the target appeared to be supporters of the security forces who were praying at the mosque. Locals are also quoted as saying that followers of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, regularly gathered at the mosque.
Islamist jihadist groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS), see Sufis as heretics. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is to meet security officials to discuss the incident, Egypt’s private Extra News TV reported.
It is not yet known who was behind Friday’s attack. Jihadist militants have been waging an insurgency in recent years, stepping up attacks after Egypt’s military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.
Hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians have been killed since then, mostly in attacks carried out by Sinai Province group, which is affiliated to IS.
In September, at least 18 policemen were killed in an attack on a convoy near al-Arish by militants affiliated with the group.
The jihadists have also killed dozens of people in attacks targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority elsewhere in the country, and claimed they planted the bomb that brought down a Russian plane carrying tourists in Sinai in 2015, killing 224 people on board.