At least 235 people have been killed and scores more injured in a bomb and gun assault on a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai, in the deadliest attack in the country in recent memory.
A bomb ripped through the mosque as Friday prayers were finishing, before militants in four off-road vehicles approached and opened fire on worshippers, a military source told the Guardian. Some witnesses said they had seen around 20 attackers.
More than 50 ambulances ferried casualties from al-Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, about 25 miles (40km) west of the city of Arish, to nearby hospitals. Pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque, and at least 130 people were reported to be injured.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it marks a major escalation in a region where for the past three years Egyptian security forces have battled an Islamic State insurgency that has killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, delivered a defiant television address on Friday evening, vowing to respond with “brute force” and offering condolences to the families of victims.
“This act will only increase our will and unity,” he said. “The police and military will avenge our martyrs and restore peace and security.”
He added: “We will respond with brute force to combat these terrorists and deviants … This is an attempt to deter us from fighting terrorism and to destroy our will, but we are steadfast, and I say to all Egyptians, the battle you are fighting is the most honourable.”
Hours after the attack, Egypt’s military launched airstrikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed