THE killing of more than 300 people at a mosque in Egypt last Friday, the deadliest militant attack in the country’s modern history, must spur a crackdown on groups that “take advantage of the freedom in the European countries to raise funds to support terrorists”, the President-Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, has said.
The al-Rawdah mosque in northern Sinai, attended by Sufi Muslims, was packed for Friday prayers, when gunmen carrying the flag of Islamic State appeared. Egypt’s public prosecutor said that between 25 and 30 militants took up positions in front of the mosque door and windows, with automatic rifles. Witnesses said that a bomb was set off. No group has claimed responsibility.
“I found people piled on top of each other, and they kept firing at anyone,” the mosque’s Imam, Mohamed Abdel Fattah, told Reuters from his hospital bed. “They fired at anyone who breathed.”
Twenty-seven children were among the 305 dead; a further 128 people were wounded. The village has a population of 800.
“Terrorism is a great threat to the whole world,” Dr Anis said, on Saturday. “This fact puts the responsibility on the international community to stop all groups and organisations which financially support these terrorist groups. These organisations take advantage of the freedom in the European countries to raise funds to support terrorists to carry out their bloody attacks on human beings.”
In June, he urged countries who faced terrorism not to be “naïve”, and to tackle the origins of extremism, including what was taught in schools (News, 23 June). There were also questions for European societies about integration, he said. “Many are living like in islands. They are living inside society, but are not part of the society.”
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of London, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the bells of Coptic churches across Egypt would ring out at noon, “to express condolences and solidarity with the Muslim community. . . Different individuals, different communities, different faith . . . same senseless destruction and pain.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the attack was “terrible beyond words”.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to respond with “brute force”. A military spokesman said on Saturday that the army had “pursued the terrorist elements, discovered and destroyed a number of vehicles that carried out the brutal terrorist killings, and killed all terrorists inside those vehicles”.
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, said: “The shedding of blood, the violation of the sacred houses of God, and the terrorising of worshippers are acts of corruption on the earth.”
Reuters reports that, a year ago, an Islamic State publication, al-Nabaa, warned: “Our primary focus lies in the war against polytheism and apostasy, and of those, Sufism, sorcery and divination.” In March, its Sinai branch posted a video of its religious police forcing a group of Sufis to renounce their beliefs under threat of death.
“It is known that militant Salafi and Jihadist groups consider Sufis as heretics,” Dr Anis said on Saturday. “They used to target policemen, soldiers and Christians, but now Muslims are also targeted. No group is exempt.”