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Mosque death toll climbs

UPDATE: 12:45 p.m.

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. The affiliate also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226 people.

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.


ORIGINAL: 6:60 a.m.

Militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshippers in the volatile Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers, Egyptian officials said, killing 184 people in what appeared to be the latest attack by the area's Islamic State affiliate.

The extremists attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon, three police officers said.

Victims were being transferred to local hospitals, they added. They said the IS militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.

Egypt's state news agency reported the casualty toll, citing "official sources," revising it upward several times following the officials' initial reports.

The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the IS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military's 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

Cairo's international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troopers and forces seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.



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