CAIRO — At least 235 people were killed when gunmen opened fire and bombed a mosque in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula on Friday. Government officials said 109 more had been injured in the attack — among the deadliest in Egypt’s history.
Images from inside the building showed dozens of bodies wrapped in blood-soaked cloth lined up on the carpeted floor.
Police sources told the Associated Press that men in four off-road vehicles opened fire on worshippers in the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Al Rawdah. NBC News could not immediately independently verify that account.
Two eyewitnesses and a security source told Reuters that the suspected militants targeted supporters of the security forces attending prayers. Citing official sources, the state-run MENA news agency 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.
Around 50 ambulances were transferring victims to hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. A statement issued by Egypt’s General Prosecutor Nabil Sadiq put the death toll at 235, with at least 109 others wounded.
A Health Ministry official told Al Jazeera TV that “there were many people inside the mosque — it’s only a small mosque.”
Gunmen shot worshippers fleeing the initial attack, he added.
There has been a wave of attacks on the country’s Coptic Christian minority, but strikes on mosques are rare and Friday’s onslaught shocked many throughout Egypt.
While Egypt’s security forces have been battling Islamist militants in northern Sinai for years, violence picked up after the 2013 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. A new group called Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for a bloody October attack on Egyptian police.
Read more at NBC News.