Pope Francis “expressed his solidarity with the Egyptian people” following the terrorist attacks on the Rawda mosque in North Sinai today that killed at least 235 people. He condemned the attack as a “wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer.”
“Profoundly grieved at the great loss of life,” the pope, who had visited Egypt in April, “commended the victims to the mercy of the Most High God” and “invoked divine blessing of consolation and peace upon their families.”
The pope described the attack as a “wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer.”
Furthermore, he “joined all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering and embrace the way of peace.”
As is usual on such occasions, the pope’s sentiments were conveyed in a telegram by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, to the president of this country, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
According to media reports, the attack on Friday targeted supporters of the security forces attending prayers at the Al Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, near Arish city in the Sinai province.
The mosque was frequented by Sufis, members of a mystic movement within Islam. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.
The BBC reported that “witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee.” It said “pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque. At least 100 people were wounded, reports say, overwhelming hospitals.”
Reuters said a local resident whose relatives were in the mosque said, “they were shooting at people as they left the mosque. They were shooting at the ambulances too." The BBC said the assailants are reported to have set parked vehicles on fire in the vicinity to block off access to the mosque.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. In the past, militants linked to the Islamic State have taken responsibility for scores of deadly attacks in the province, but they have usually attacked the security forces and Christian churches.
Today’s attack on a mosque, however, has shocked the whole country. The country’s president promised to respond with "brute force."
This report includes material from Associated Press.