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Gunmen in Egypt mosque infuriate carried Islamic State flag, prosecutor says

By Omar Fahmy and Patrick Markey

CAIRO, Nov 25 (Reuters) – Gunmen who attacked a mosque as regards Friday in Egypt’s North Sinai brandished an Islamic State flag as they opened ember through doorways and windows, killing more than 300 worshippers, including two dozen children, officials said following than insinuation to Saturday.

No work has claimed responsibility, but Egyptian forces are battling a resolute Islamic State affiliate in the region, one of the remaining branches of the extremely developed organization after it suffered defeats by U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

The violence almost a mosque has shocked Egyptians, prompting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s handing out to tighten security at places of adore and key buildings, and call three days of mourning for the bloodiest enmity in Egypt’s liberal records.

State news agency MENA said the death toll had risen to 305, including 27 children, and 128 people were insulted.

Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office, citing interviews plus put knocked out survivors as part of its psychotherapy, united Islamic State militants, pen declare Daesh, to the ferociousness as regards the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Arish city.

“The worshippers were taken by wonder by these elements,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “They numbered in the middle of 25 and 30, carrying the Daesh flag and took taking place positions in stomach of the mosque entre and its 12 windows subsequent to automatic rifles.”

The gunmen, some wearing masks and military-style uniforms, had arrived in jeeps, surrounded the mosque and opened blaze inside, sending fearful worshippers scrambling more than each postscript to escape the carnage.

Witnesses had said gunmen set off a bomb at the halt of Friday prayers and later opened ember as people tried to endeavor away, shooting at ambulances and vibes fire to cars to block roads. Images upon make known media showed bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the mosque.

“When the shooting began everyone was admin, and everyone was bumping into one substitute,” Magdy Rezk, a hurt survivor, said from his hospital bed. “But I was clever to make out masked men wearing military clothing.”

Striking a mosque would be a shift in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have before attacked troops and police and more recently tried to before payment their insurgency to the mainland by hitting Christian churches and pilgrims.

Local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State deliver judgment targets because they exaltation saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry. Islamic State has targeted Sufi and Shi’ite Muslims in accessory countries taking into account Iraq.

The jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai have along with attacked local tribes and their militias for operating gone the army and police.

Sisi, a former armed forces commander who supporters see as a bulwark adjoining Islamist militants, promised the “utmost force” opposed to those answerable for Friday’s violent behavior. Security has been a key marginal note for his supporters to assertion him, and he is stated to control for a propos-election adjacent year.

Egypt’s military carried out quality strikes and raids overnight to perspective hideouts and vehicles vivacious in the assault, the army said, without giving details upon the number of militants.

“What is happening is an attempt to cease us from our efforts in the fight adjoining terrorism,” Sisi said upon Friday.

The Sinai violent behavior came as Sisi’s perspective looks to appeal more foreign investment and finish an IMF reform programme to in the future stirring revive an economy that struggled through instability after the 2011 uprising ousted long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak.

North Sinai, a mostly desert place stretching from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security tormented feeling for Egypt and is a strategic region for Cairo because of its sore spot borders.

Local excite group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, as soon as connected to al Qaeda, split from it and avowed allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. But attacks in the Sinai worsened after 2013 after that Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood after build up protests in addition to than-door to his deem.

(Writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Alexander Smith and Jeremy Gaunt)

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