11/25/2017, 10.10
EGYPT - VATICAN
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Tawadros II and Pope Francis express pain and condemnation of Al-Roda mosque attack

by Loula Laham

The attack on the faithful at the conclusion of Friday's prayer left 235 dead and 140 wounded. There are 30 children among the victims. First time a Sunni mosque targeted in Egypt. President Al Sisi declares three days of national mourning and promises to respond to the attack with "maximum force". Air raids against terrorist weapons stores. Pope Francis: Let us pray for hearts hardened by hatred to learn to give up the path of violence.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Pain for the victims and condemnation for the bloody attack on the Al Roda mosque were expressed by Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Orthodox Copts of Egypt. Last night, a telegram signed by Card. Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed Pope Francis’ deep sorrow and solidarity to the entire Egyptian population. The attack targeted faithful gathered in the mosque at the end of Friday's prayer and killed 235 and wounded140. It is the first time that a Sunni mosque has been targeted in Egypt, where Sunnism is the majority religion.

"We present our sincere condolences to the families of the dead," said Tawadros, "and pray for the Lord to heal the wounded. Let us also pray for God to be merciful to Egypt and to be able to drive out any act of violence and to distance himself from this brutal terrorism that has never been seen in its history. We are in agreement with the whole of the Egyptian people and state institutions in their war against terrorism and violence in the name of religion. "

A similar message was circulated by patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, spiritual leader of Catholics of Egypt.

Pope Francis’ telegram, signed by Card. Parolin, expresses "deep sorrow to the news of the huge loss of life caused by the terrorist attack on the Al Rada Mosque in North Sinai." "Expressing his solidarity with the Egyptian people at this time of national mourning, he [the pope] commends the victims to the mercy of the Most High Almighty God and invokes divine blessings of consolation and peace on their families. By renewing his firm condemnation for this arbitrary act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer, His Holiness joins all men of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred learn to forsake the path of violence that produces so much suffering, to embrace the path of peace. "

Egyptian President Abdelfattah Al Sisi has declared three days of national mourning and in a television message he promised to respond to the attack with "maximum force". Yesterday, the Egyptian army announced that it had carried out an air raid on "terrorist targets". A spokesman said some points weapons and ammunition deposits believed to belong to terrorists were destroyed.

The day after the attack new details are emerging. Yesterday, at 13.30, a bomb exploded in the courtyard of the mosque, just as hundreds of faithful had finished praying and were preparing to leave the building. As ambulances arrived and cared for the wounded, terrorists aboard some SUVs began to shoot with machine guns. Of the 235 dead, there are also 30 children.

Al-Roda Mosque is located 20 km west of Al-Arich town, the capital of North Sinai governorate, in the east of the country, in a village named Bir Al-Abd. It is attended by followers of Sufism (the mystical tradition in Islam) which the Salafis regard as apostates. Last December, the head of the "religious police" of Isis in Sinai had said that if the Sufis did not "repent," they would be killed. Days before the group had beheaded two elderly men, who were Sufi religious.

Other local witnesses claim that the mosque was frequented by police and army people, and  by tribes of the peninsula who co-operate in the fight against jihadists.

The brutal attack occurred just as the Egyptian state proclaimed its victory in the war on terror in the Sinai Peninsula.

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