As many as 115 people are dead in a terror attack that targeted a mosque in northern Sinai, Egyptian media report.
Egyptian security officials say another 120 or so were wounded in the attack on the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the northern Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish.
The attack is believed to be the work of jihadist cells operating in the Sinai. A manhunt is currently underway in the area for the perpetrators.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is convening a meeting with his security cabinet to discuss the attack.
Egyptian officials said men in four off-road vehicles detonated an explosive device at the mosque during the sermon at Friday prayers, then opened fire on worshipers. They then fired at ambulances and rescue crews who arrived to care for the wounded.
Egyptian forces have been fighting a bloody insurgency by salafists linked to the Islamic State in the northern Sinai for several years, with near-daily bombings and shootings.
Earlier this month, Egypt’s armed forces said they killed three “high-level” suspected Islamist militants and arrested 74 others in sweeps in the northern Sinai.
A military spokesman said five vehicles and four bomb-making workshops were destroyed in the raids, as well as ammunition and fuel stocks.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the “new Hitler of the Middle East” and must be stopped.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mohammed bin Salman, known in the region by the English acronym MBS, told The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that he is working to build a coalition of nations to confront Iranian influence in the region.
Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” MBS told Friedman. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.”
The young prince, 32, who is slated to take over the control of the desert kingdom after his father passes away or steps down, praised US President Donald Trump for his support, saying the controversial American leader was “the right person at the right time.”
Many Sunni nations, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are building an alliance to stand against Iran, which through its proxies wields influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, with Tehran’s critics saying it is helping to stoke instability in those countries
The Saudi prince made no mention of Israel in the wide-ranging interview, which came amid increasing talk of warmed Israeli-Saudi ties. But his language about Khamenei and Iran echoed repeated comments by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has frequently made comparisons between Iran under the ayatollahs and Nazi Germany, and vowed to ensure that Iran does not attain weapons of mass destruction. “The democratic states made a terrible mistake” when failing to confront the rise of Nazism, “and they’re making a terrible mistake now,” Netanyahu told a Holocaust memorial ceremony in 2015, for example. World powers are “comatose” and “delusional” in the face of today’s Nazis, Iran, he charged
Israel has indicated repeatedly of late that its ties are warming with Saudi Arabia, catalyzed by the common concerns over Iran. An Israeli minister appeared to confirm such ties earlier this week, and the Israeli army’s chief of staff last week gave an unprecedented interview to a Saudi news site, but the Saudi foreign minister on Monday denied there were any relations.
In the New York Times interview, MBS also insisted that his religious reforms within the conservative kingdom are meant to take Saudi Arabia back to its original form of Islam, before the extremist Wahhabi clerics took control of religious life in the country in 1979.
The crown prince denied claims by critics that the recent arrest of dozens of princes and prominent businessmen was a ploy to consolidate his power, stressing it was necessary to stamp out corruption in the nation’s elites.
He said it was “ludicrous” to suggest the arrests were part of a power grab, explaining that many of those detained had already pledged their allegiance to him.
Instead, he explained, it was the only way to get the Saudi economy back on track.
“Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one ‘war on corruption’ and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up,” he said.
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