At least one gunman in the brutal attack on an Egyptian mosque that killed at least 305 on Friday was carrying the black Daesh (IS) flag, according to the country’s state prosecutor.
At least 128 are injured from the coordinated attack on the al Rawdah Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abed by Islamic extremists, a statement from the Public Prosecutors Office said, according to state-run Nile TV.
Up to 30 attackers had arrived in five SUVs armed with automatic machine guns, took position in front of the mosque and started an attack that included bombs and gunfire.
Militants also set parked cars on fire in the area to prevent access from the building and fired on emergency vehicles that were attempting to reach victims.
No militant group has claimed responsibility at this time.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has said he will respond with “the utmost force”, with the military saying it has already carried out airstrikes on “terrorist” targets.
“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism,” Mr Sisi said in the hours following the terror attack.
“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force.”
The president said the attack will “only increase our will and unity” with police and military to “avenge our martyrs and restore peace and security.”
So-called Islamic State affiliates have been been engaged with Egyptian security forces at least since 2014, with radicalized insurgents engaging in several attacks in the desert region of Sinai.
However, Friday’s attack is Egypt’s deadliest in modern times, say monitors. Other recent attacks include multiple assaults on Coptic Christians.
Islamic militants, based in Sinai, claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian passenger plane that killed all 224 people on Oct 31, 2015.
The terror group reportedly aims to make the entirety of the Sinai peninsula into a province of Daesh, which has lost nearly all of its so-called caliphate territory in Iraq and Syria.
Attorney-General Nabil Ahmed Sadiq is leading a probe into the incident that includes investigating relevant security services, according to Nile TV.
Attack kills children
At least 27 children were killed in the mosque attack, whose dead Egyptian state media describe as “martyrs”.
Hundreds of police and soldiers have lost their lives in fighting an Islamic insurgency for the last three years.
Multiple witnesses near Friday’s attack describe a large explosion followed by gunfire at the mosque.
The mosque is of the Sufi faith, described by the Guardian as a “mystical branch of Islam whose followers are regarded by hardline Islamists as apostates because they revere saints and shrines.”
According to international media, Daesh had recently published an interview with the director of their so-called “morality police” in Egypt who prioritized the combat against “the manifestations of polytheism including Sufism.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of the scene at the mosque from USA Today.