Pope Francis condemns “wanton brutality” of Egyptian mosque attack

The Rawda Mosque in northern Sinai

Pope Francis condemns “wanton brutality” of Egyptian mosque attack

cruxnow.com and agencies

On Friday, November 24, Pope Francis sent a message saying he is “profoundly grieved to learn of the great loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks on the Rawda Mosque in northern Sinai.”

The message, sent on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed the Pope’s solidarity with the Egyptian people, and commended the victims of the attack to the mercy of God.

“In renewing his firm condemnation of this wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer, His Holiness joins all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering, and embrace the way of peace,” the message said.

Bishop Joseph Arshad, the president of Pakistan’s bishops’ conference, told Crux he offered his “deepest condolences to the people and government of Egypt for the loss of innocent lives in the attack on the mosque. We pray for the souls of those who lost their lives in this senseless violence and we pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.” The bishop said an attack on any religious place hurts all religions. “A place of worship is where people gather together in prayer and solidarity. It is a loss for humanity.”

Furthermore, the Coptic Orthodox Church has denounced a deadly attack by gunmen on a North Sinai mosque that killed at least 184 worshippers on Friday, November 24.

A Coptic Orthodox Church spokesperson said the Church condemned "the flagrant attack that targeted worshipers in Deir Al-Abd's Al-Rawda mosque."

"We pray to God that Egypt is preserved from such unprecedented brutal terrorism," the statement read, adding that it is voicing its solidarity with the nation and state bodies in their fight against terrorism.

Press reports indicate that militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 235 people in the deadliest ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt.

The attack targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of Islam's mystical movement, in the north Sinai town of Bir al-Abd. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

The startling bloodshed, which also wounded at least 109, was the latest sign of how more than three years of fighting in Sinai has been unable to crush an insurgency waged by the IS affiliate. Seeking to spread the violence, the militants the past year have carried out deadly bombings on churches in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, killing dozens of Christians.

But this was the first major militant attack on a Muslim mosque, and it eclipsed any past attacks of its kind, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.

The militants opened fire from four off-road vehicles on the hundreds of worshippers attending the sermon in the mosque. They also blocked off escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, three police officers on the scene said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Dozens of bloodied bodies wrapped up in sheets were laid across the mosque floor, according to images circulating on social media. Relatives queuing up outside the hospital as ambulances raced back and forth. The state news agency MENA put the death toll at 235.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But IS has targeted Sufis several times in the area in the past, notably beheading a leading Sufi religious figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, last year and posting photos of the killing online.

Egypt's presidency declared a three-day mourning period, as President Abdel-Fattah Sisi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

In a statement afterward, Sisi said the attack "will not go unpunished" and that Egypt will persevere with its war on terrorism.

The suffering of the victims was not in vain, he added, and will only "add to our insistence" to combat extremists. Addressing the nation later on television, he repeated his view that Egypt fighting a battle against militancy on behalf of the rest of the world.

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 21:02
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