Egypt mosque attack leaves at least 200 dead in Sinai Peninsula

Egypt mosque attack leaves at least 200 dead in Sinai Peninsula

The affiliate also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226 people.

Numerous attacks, some of which were carried out by the local branch of the Islamic State terrorist organization, are aimed at police and security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

"Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt", Trump tweeted.

A Ministry of Health spokesman said the terrorists set off a bomb during the attack.

On Friday Morning, a massive explosion in Al-Rawada mosque, located in the town of Beer El Abed, in North Sinai's Al-Arish. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics due to their less literal interpretations of the faith.

The security officers said the men opened fire on worshipers during prayers while driving in off-road vehicles.

The jihadists have also attacked local tribes and their militias, branding them traitors for working with the army and police. Nearly a year ago, Islamic State published a video showing the slaying of Suleiman Abu Haraz, the 98-year old spiritual leader of the Sufis in the Sinai.

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Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi called the attack "criminal" and said it "will not go unpunished".

"The world can not tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!", he wrote.

"The Egyptian side informed us that Rafah will not reopen on Saturday because of the tragic events in Northern Sinai", the official added. Citing official sources, state-run MENA reported that the mosque is largely attended by Sufi Muslims - a form of Islam considered heretical by some conservatives and extremists like the Islamic State group.

North Sinai, which stretches from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has always been a security headache for Egyptian security forces because of smuggling.

A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights IS said that the mosque is known as a place of gathering for Sufis.

President Trump used the massacre at a mosque in Egypt to renew his calls for a travel ban and "wall" on Friday afternoon.

Militants have carried out several attacks in Sinai since the 2013 military ouster of the country's Islamist former President Mohamed Morsi, killing hundreds of soldiers, police, and civilians. Some are aimed at local mosques in the peninsula, as well as Christian churches outside the region.