2017 Sinai mosque attack
|Al-Rawda mosque attack|
|Location||Al-Rawda, Bir al-Abed, North Sinai Governorate, Egypt|
24 November 2017 |
1:50 PM EET (UTC+2)
|Bombing, mass shooting|
|Weapons||IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades and firearms|
|at least 122|
At 1:50 PM EET on 24 November 2017, the al-Rawda mosque was attacked by roughly 40 gunmen during Friday prayers. The mosque is located in the village of Al-Rawda east of the town of Bir al-Abed in Egypt's North Sinai Governorate. It is one of the main mosques associated with the Jaririya Sufi order, one of the largest Sufi orders in North Sinai. The Jaririya order is named for its founder, Sheikh Eid Abu Jarir, who was a member of the Sawarka tribe and the Jarira clan. The Jarira clan resides in the vicinity of Bir al-Abed. The attack killed 311 people and injured at least 122, making it the deadliest attack in Egyptian history. It was the second-deadliest terrorist attack of 2017, after the Mogadishu bombings on 14 October.
Al-Rawda Mosque, which is located on Sinai's main coastal highway connecting the city of Port Said to Gaza, belongs to the local Jarir clan, of the Sawarka tribe, who follow the Jaririya (Gaririya) Sufi order—an offshoot of the movement of Abu Ahmed al-Ghazawi, of the broader Darqawa order. The mosque is on the road between El Arish and Bir al-Abed. The mosque has a smaller zawiyah, a Sufi lodge, attached.
According to local media, attackers in four off-road vehicles planted three bombs; the attackers used the burning wrecks of cars to block off escape routes. After their detonation, they launched rocket propelled grenades and opened fire on worshipers during the crowded Friday prayer at al-Rawda near Bir al-Abed. When ambulances arrived to transport the wounded to hospitals, the attackers opened fire on them as well, having selected ambush points from which to target them. Local residents quickly responded, bringing the wounded to hospitals in their own cars and trucks, and even taking up weapons to fight back.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although there were reports that the attack appeared to be the work of Islamic State's Wilayat Sinai branch. On 25 November, the Egyptian public prosecutor's office, citing interviews with survivors, said the attackers brandished the Islamic State flag.
Islamist militants have been active in the Sinai since July 2013, killing at least 1,000 Egyptian security forces personnel. According to The New York Times, in January 2017 an interview of an insurgent commander in Sinai appeared in issue five of the Islamic State magazine Rumiyah, where the commander condemned Sufi practices and identified the district where the attack occurred as one of three areas where Sufis live in Sinai that Islamic State intended to "eradicate." The community had been repeatedly threatened to refrain from Sufi practices.
Egypt declared three days of national mourning following the attack. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the attack "shall not go unpunished". The President also ordered the government to allocate funds for compensating families of the dead.
The Muslim Brotherhood wrote on Twitter and Facebook that it "condemns in the strongest words" the attack and that those responsible should "renounce extremism and violence". Al-Azhar University, Egypt's oldest accredited university, issued a statement condemning the attacks, adding "terrorism will be routed".
The attack was widely condemned by the international community, with many world leaders issuing official statements and social media posts. Turkey declared one day of national mourning on 27 November.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights strongly condemned the attacks, and weeks later issued a report that considered the massacre an attempt of genocide against the Sufi Muslim community of the Sinai Peninsula. EOHR also called upon the Egyptian government to provide adequate protection for minorities.
A three-day opening of the border crossing into Gaza from Rafah, Egypt, scheduled for 25–27 November, was cancelled due to security concerns. The Cairo International Film Festival stated in a press release its intention to continue with the festival, and condemned the attacks.
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality building, the Library of Birmingham, the Kuwait Towers and the CN Tower were illuminated with the colors of the Egyptian flag as a sign of solidarity. The lights of the Eiffel Tower were extinguished as well. The Royal Hashemite Court flew the Jordanian flag at half-mast.
President el-Sisi vowed to respond with "the utmost force" and Egyptian authorities in the days immediately after the attack the Air Force claimed to have the pursued and destroyed of some of the militants' vehicles and weapons stocks. Airstrikes were also conducted in the neighboring mountains.
In February, 2018, Egypt responded to this attack with major air strikes and land assaults against terrorist positions in Sinai.
- October 2016 Sinai attacks, an attack in Sinai occurring on 14 October 2016
- List of major terrorist incidents
- List of terrorist incidents in November 2017
- Persecution of Sufis
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Gunmen fired on people fleeing after explosions took place at the mosque between Bir al-Abed and the city of al-Arish.
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