Militants killed more than 300 people at a mosque in North Sinai on Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers in the deadliest such attack in Egypt’s modern history, state media and witnesses said. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but since 2013 Egyptian security forces have battled an Islamic State affiliate in the mainly desert region, and militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.
Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape.
“Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them, said Mohamed, a witness.
The public prosecutors’ office said in a statement more than 300 people with 27 children among the dead, and 128 more wounded.
Hours after the attack, Egypt’s military launched air strikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed, security sources and witnesses said. “The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a televised address.
“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region.”
Egypt later said it would delay the opening of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza after the attack due to security concerns. The crossing had been due to open for three days beginning on Saturday.
Striking at a mosque would be a change in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have usually attacked troops and police and Christian churches.
Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry. The jihadists have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police, branding them traitors.
The Sinai branch is one of Islamic State’s surviving branches following the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq after military defeats by U.S.-backed forces. Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy, convened an emergency meeting with his defense and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack.
Security has long been one of the key sources of public support for the former general, who is expected to run for re-election early next year for another four-year term.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in a post on Twitter on Friday, called the assault a “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack.” “The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence,” he added.
Trump later called Sisi to express his condolences and said the United States “stands by Egypt’s side in its fight against terrorism and is ready to strengthen cooperation with Egypt in this field,” according to a statement from Sisi’s office.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with Egypt.
North Sinai, which stretches from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security headache for Egyptian security forces because of smuggling.
Sisi has support from some Bedouin tribal leaders, who have helped the army locate weapon-smuggling routes used by jihadi groups, security officials said.
Local militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, once allied to al Qaeda, split from it and declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Islamic State earlier this year posted a video of the beheading of two Sufis in northern Sinai, accusing them of practicing “sorcery.”
In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
Militants have tried to expand their operations into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims. In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.
Capitol Rioter Screams at Cops Asking Them to Call for Backup to Combat Mob
Not every Trumper at the U.S. Capitol was down with the siege … or at least so it appears based on this one MAGA cap-wearing man’s convo with Capitol Police in the middle of the riot.
Check out this clip that just surfaced from Jan. 6, when the guy approached a group of Capitol Police officers who were standing off to the side … while the mob stormed into the building.
The man’s words here are telling … he asks why the cops are letting this happen, and why they haven’t called for backup — noting this is the U.S. FREAKIN’ CAPITOL THAT’S BEING INVADED, and that these people storming it are “out for blood.”
Anyway, the officers didn’t seem to respond at all, and the man continued his diatribe … telling them that if no extra help was on the way, it means they don’t care about what’s happening to the Capitol.
The whole thing is pretty ironic — a clear Trump supporter right in the thick of the action denouncing the act of breaching the premises. Now, we have no idea what his motives were here, or if he was genuinely separating himself from the illegal activity.
We’ll say this … he does seem to rejoin the mob as the video ends, but we have no way of knowing if he actually went inside the Capitol.
As we first reported, the FBI is investigating a possible Capitol inside job that allowed the siege to take place. And, of course, the Capitol Police Chief resigned too … not to mention multiple suspensions and firings that have taken place since.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says Trump provoked deadly Capitol riot
- President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
- McConnell’s remarks came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer work to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial.
- The remarks also came the day before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as president.
President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, which two weeks earlier had been evacuated after the crowd of rioters invaded the building.
The remarks from McConnell, R-Ky., came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., worked to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial. Trump was impeached in the Democrat-led House last week in a 232-197 vote, with 10 Republicans voting in favor of impeachment.
Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
The GOP leader made the direct link between the Republican president’s rhetoric and the Jan. 6 riot, which left five dead, the day before President-elect Joe Biden was set to be sworn in as the 46th president.
McConnell has rebuffed pressure from Democrats to hold that trial before Trump leaves office, but he has told colleagues that he is undecided on whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate for inciting the riot.
McConnell’s remarks also suggested that other leaders bore responsibility for the attack. A growing chorus of critics have called on some lawmakers, especially GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, to resign after they objected to key states’ electoral results.
McConnell had congratulated Biden on his victory in mid-December, more than a month after the Nov. 3 election.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on McConnell’s latest remarks.
Trump, who exhorted the crowd at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell” and head to the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election, has insisted that his remarks just before the riot were “totally appropriate.”
In that speech, Trump repeated the incendiary and false claim that he had been robbed of reelection by widespread electoral fraud. He once again vowed that he would never concede to Biden, and he urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to “cheer on” Republican lawmakers who had vowed to object to the results.
“We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump also said.
Many of his supporters attending that rally walked directly across the National Mall to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress had convened to confirm Biden’s Electoral College victory. Rioters broke through barricades and lines of law enforcement officers and entered the Capitol, forcing Congress into hiding. Among them was Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the event.
After McConnell’s remarks, Schumer said on the Senate floor that “Donald Trump should not be eligible to run for office ever again.”
“Healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability,” Schumer said.
“There will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate, there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors, and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” Schumer said.
Trump, who has acknowledged the coming end to his one term in office without conceding to Biden, has not called his successor, nor has he invited him to the White House before the inauguration.
Pence last week called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to congratulate her and offer his assistance before she is sworn in.
UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER DIES AFTER LYING ABOUT COVID SYMPTOMS
A passenger on a United jet with nearly 200 others onboard was pronounced dead shortly after the pilot made an emergency landing, and it’s almost certain the man had COVID.
Furious United Airlines passengers have criticized the company after a man who they claimed was showing clear coronavirus-like symptoms was allowed to board the plane and died before he reached his destination.
The flight took off from Orlando bound for Los Angeles on Monday, and the victim was pronounced dead after an emergency landing in New Orleans.
Medics on board attempted to save him, including by reportedly performing CPR. His wife, one passenger said, told all within earshot that he had been showing symptoms for the past week and so she suspected COVID-19.
United said on Friday they were trying to trace those on board United Flight 591.
The flight was a Boeing 737-900 with capacity for 179 people, according to Flight Aware.
The victim was taken off and the plane and all other passengers then carried on to LA – with some later saying they were not offered the chance to rebook onto a different flight.
The plane, pictured at the gate in LA, made an emergency stop in New Orleans and the man was pronounced dead. The plane, and all its passengers, then continued to LA
A United flight from Orlando to Los Angeles Monday was diverted due to a medical emergency
‘Can I ask how you guys let a covid positive man on my flight last night?’ said one woman.
‘He was shaking and sweating boarding the plane. He was clearly sick and then died mid flight. We had an emergency landing in New Orleans and we didn’t even switch planes afterwards.
‘We all sat there for hours waiting while you guys cleaned up his blood and germs with wet wipes. Is this how you guys handle other people’s safety and health?’
She said that the airline’s claim that they believed he had a heart attack was ‘laughable’, adding: ‘There was never any mention of we are diverting this flight because of cardiac arrest reasons.
‘Everyone was aware this was COVID related because the wife was relaying his medical information, and shared he was in fact COVID positive and symptomatic for over a week. That is them covering up the fact that they handled this situation poorly.’
Another woman, named Shay, also tweeted angrily at United, accusing them of failing to check on the passengers before boarding, and criticizing the man and his wife for flying.
‘United, why did you never check our temperatures before boarding?’ she tweeted.
‘The family of the man, why didn’t you go to the hospital or not let your husband get on the flight feeling like that?
‘An entire plane had to watch him seize or have a heart attack none of us know which, and die.’
Shay said she noticed the man having breathing difficulties.
‘I made eye contact with his wife and looked at him and she just looked down,’ Shay said.
She said the medical team on board tried to revive him for an hour.
‘The family was crying, people were freaking out,’ she said.
‘He was shocked twice, given an epi-pen, 2 shots of adrenaline and mouth to mouth after chest compressions…’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked United for the passenger manifest so other passengers can be told that they might have been exposed to a disease, spokesman Charles Hobart said.
The passenger had filled out a form before the flight saying he had not tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the airline.
‘It is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement,’ United said.
United said the CDC did not specify the man’s cause of death, and United does not know whether it was COVID-19.
But, the airline said, the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical technician that he had shown symptoms of the disease, including loss of taste and smell.
The CDC is collecting information to decide whether further public health action is appropriate, an agency spokesman said in a text message.
‘To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public,’ the CDC spokesman told AP.
All four flight attendants were quarantined for two weeks once they arrived at Los Angeles, ‘per written guidelines,’ said Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants.
‘Our union continues to provide support to the crew,’ Garland said.
‘We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you´re sick.’
The man was taken to a hospital in New Orleans where he was pronounced dead, according to the airline.
Hobart said United originally was told that he died from heart trouble, so passengers were allowed to stay on the plane and complete the flight to Los Angeles or take a later flight.
The airline said all passengers stayed on the plane.
The incident occurred last Monday, and the CDC is now scrambling to contact the 179 passengers who were onboard.