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Hundreds queue to donate blood for Sinai mosque bomb victims

Crowds of young people were seen waiting outside Arish hospital [Twitter]

Date of publication: 24 November, 2017

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Large crowds formed outside the Arish hospital after the local Health Directorate declared a state of 'maximum emergency'.
Large crowds of young men gathered outside hospitals in al-Arish and Bi'r al-Abed on Friday, waiting to give blood to the victims of a major bomb and gun attack.

Hundreds of young men in Egypt's Sinai province waited in line to donate blood, after the Sinai Health Directorate declared a state of "maximum emergency". 

At least 235 people were reported killed and 109 more injured by the Egyptian authorities after four men bombed and shot at the Rawdah mosque in the village of Bi'r al-Abed, located 40km west of Arish city in North Sinai.

One eyewitness told The New Arab: "The gunmen detonated a bomb in front of the mosque in the town center in the final minutes of the Friday prayers."

"They then stormed the mosque and opened fire on dozens of worshipers, before burning a number of cars parked near the mosque."

Read more: Egypt Sinai: Dozens killed, wounded in mosque bomb attack

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a national three-day mourning period in response to the attack - thought to have one of the highest mortality rates in recent history.

Who was behind the attack?

Local community leaders told reporters the attack was likely due to the worshippers' Sufi faith, adding that it followed the one-year death anniversary of Sheikh Suleiman Abu Harraz.

Harraz, who was more than 100 years old, was beheaded by the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis group in the desert in November 2016.

The IS-affiliated militant group released images of the execution, accusing the Sheikh of ''practicing witchcraft".

The Islamic State group has launched numerous attacks in the local area and labels Sufi Muslims as heretics for seeking the intercession of saints.

In 2013, Salafi-Jihadist gunmen destroyed a shrine to a Sufi sheikh in the village of Mazar, near to Bi'r al-Abed.

No group had claimed responsibility for the attack by the time of publication.

Investigation

The army closed the roads to al-Arish after the attack and comparatively large numbers of warplanes were seen flying above major Sinai towns on Friday afternoon.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that two vehicles were destroyed by military drones while escaping the town.

Egypt's Interior Minister, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, announced on Friday the launch of a major investigation into the attack, led by Major General Jamal Abd al-Bari.

Egypt is facing an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State group affiliate, that have killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.

In recent times, attacks against security forces have also taken place in Egypt's western desert, where an ambush on Egyptian a police convoy led to the deaths of at least 16 security personnel last month.

Militants operating in Egypt have maintained a steady war of attrition with sniper attacks, roadside bombings and attacks on civilian targets, including Coptic churches.

Unlike the IS group in Iraq and Syria, however, Islamist militants have been unable to seize population centres in Egypt.

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