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State media: Hundreds killed in Egypt mosque attack

At least 235 people were killed Friday when militants attacked a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai region, state media reported.

At least 130 people were injured, the official MENA news agency said. The local Islamic State affiliate — Sinai Province — appeared to be responsible, the Associated Press reported.

It was the largest single attack targeting Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque since the militants began their campaign of terror in 2013, the AP said.

Police said extemists in four off-road vehicles bombed the mosque and fired on worshippers during a sermon at the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, located 25 miles from the regional capital of el-Arish.

The militants stopped people from escaping by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, police told the AP.

The office of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announced three days of mourning, MENA reported. Al-Sisi was due to meet with security officials to discuss the assaults, according to local media.

The international airport in the capital Cairo heightened security following the attack.

President Trump tweeted: “Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister, said this “a time for international unity in the war on terror wherever it presents itself: Russia, Europe, the US, Israel and the Arab World — we have all been hurt by terror and must unite in our battle against it.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union’s executive arm, offered his “most sincere condolences to the people of Egypt and to President el-Sisi.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this barbaric and cowardly act deliberately targeting peaceful and innocent people in their place of worship. In these dark moments, Egypt can rightly be proud of the heroic and courageous actions of the security and emergency services on the ground,” Juncker said in a statement.

The Egyptian government has been battling an Islamist insurgency in the region for a number of years. It intensified in 2013 after the army overthrew the divisive Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) started operating in the area in 2011 and changed its name to Sinai Province in 2014 after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Hundreds of soldiers, civilians and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear because journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

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