The recent attack on worshippers at a Friday mosque in Egypt which resulted in the death of three hundred and five people with another hundred wounded was a most dastardly and senseless slaughter of innocent souls in order to score a nebulous terroristic political point. It underscored the very dangerous times that we live in and the determination of terrorists to go to any length to kill innocent people, which calls for innovative ways to tackle their callousness.
Between 25 and 30 armed men carried out the assault on the al Rawdah Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abed, northern Sinai. They used explosives inside the mosque and then fired at worshippers as they tried to flee from the scene. The terrorists
positioned themselves in front of the mosque and its entrances armed with automatic machine guns while some of them, wearing masks, entered the mosque with one carrying an Islamic State (ISIS) flag. They fired not only at fleeing worshippers but at ambulances that rushed to the scene as well.
Even though Egypt in particular, the Middle East region and the entire world are almost getting used to senseless violence by terrorist groups, this particular attack was the worst in Egypt’s history and one of the worst that the world ever witnessed. Even though no group has come out to claim responsibility for the attack, it has the trademarks of ISIS. We condemn this heinous act of terror that is un-Islamic, though the attackers hide under their warped understanding of Islam to commit such atrocities.
This cannot be justified under Islam. Their nefarious action only served to portray a false image of Islam as a religion that promotes violence. The Egyptian government declared three days of mourning and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to respond to the unprecedented attack with “brute force.” While expressing condolences to the victims and their families, he said the attack “will not go unpunished.” “The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” Sisi said. This was followed by air strikes on mountainous targets by the Egyptian military around Bir Al- Abed.
The Sinai Peninsula has suffered from a series of attacks by militants on security forces for some years now. A group in the area pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and became an affiliate of the dreaded terror group, which claimed previous attacks. However apart from using brute force as declared by al-Sisi, the key is intelligence gathering to outsmart and be ahead of the terrorists. The Egypt attack came a few days after a suicide attack on a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State in this country where fifty early morning worshippers were killed.
Egypt is therefore not alone in its fight against senseless terror. We are in the same boat with them in this fight, which is why we were horrified by the similarity of the attacks in Sinai and Mubi. Leaders, particularly religious ones should preach against extremism and ideologies that encourage killings in the name of Islam. On the other hand, Islamic scholars or clerics should also not be the ones to sow the seed of division within the Islamic faith. Parents should monitor the activities of their children so as not for them to fall into a group of extremists or terrorists.
The Sinai Peninsula is said to be ravaged by poverty and it has a difficult terrain, making it easy for militancy to thrive. The Egyptian government has a duty to squarely tackle poverty in the Sinai. It is a similar situation in Nigeria where the Boko Haram insurgency has been linked to mass poverty in the region. While poverty is no justification for anyone to take innocent lives, the authorities should tackle it with jobs, trades and education in order that the youth may not be attracted to terrorism and violence.