The Sinai Peninsula has never seen anything like it. Yesterday, on the main highway to Gaza, outside the town of Bir al-Abed, murderers approached the al-Rawda mosque with massacre on their minds. It was toward the end of Friday prayers, just after midday.
A bomb shattered the serenity of prayer, then 25 to 30 killers disgorged from five off-road vehicles and began to rake the mosque with machine gun fire. They blocked doors and windows and poured fire inside. They threw grenades into the ranks of defenseless worshippers. There was considerable planning involved, and the terrorists torched several cars parked outside the mosque to block escape routes from the massacre.
When ambulances began arriving to aid victims, the gunmen shot at them, too. Only when the terrorists fled the scene could emergency workers tend to the victims—and there were hundreds of them. It took many hours to arrive at an accurate casualty count, given the chaos. According to Egyptian authorities, this terrible attack killed 305 innocents—27 of them children—and injured 128. This is the bloodiest terrorist strike in Egypt’s history, which isn’t exactly short on mass violence, especially by Islamist radicals.
The gunmen are widely believed to be followers of the Islamic State, which has put down deep roots in Sinai. Although there have been no claims of responsibility to-date, survivors report that the killers brandished the trademark black flag of jihad, an IS symbol. Some of the terrorists were masked, while others eschewed the usual IS get-up of long hair with thick beards—they looked like professional killers, clad in black t-shirts and camouflage-print trousers.
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