A furious Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi declared three days of mourning and pledged to “respond with brutal force” Friday after armed attackers killed at least 235 worshipers in a packed mosque in Egypt’s restive North Sinai province.
“The army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period,” he added in a televised speech.
In an earlier statement his office vowed that “the hand of justice will reach everyone who took part, helped, funded or incited to this attack.”
The bomb explosion ripped through the Rawda mosque frequented by Sufis, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of el-Arish, before gunmen opened fire on those gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.
The gunmen then mowed down the panicked worshipers as they attempted to flee and used the congregants’ vehicles they had set alight to block routes to the mosque.
The state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that 235 people were killed and 109 wounded in the attack, the scale of which is unprecedented in a four-year insurgency by Islamist extremist groups.
US President Donald Trump condemned on Twitter the “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers.”
UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “barbaric attack” in a post on Twitter, while his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed his condolences to the families of victims of the “despicable” bloodshed.
Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, which is based in Cairo, condemned the “terrifying crime which again shows that Islam is innocent of those who follow extremist terrorist ideology,” his spokesman said in a statement.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
The Islamic State group’s Egypt branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and also civilians accused of working with the authorities, in attacks in the north of the Sinai Peninsula.