President Trump said he planned to call Egypt’s president following Friday’s bombing and shooting attack in the country’s volatile Sinai Peninsula, a horrific assault that claimed the lives of at least 235 people and wounded 109 others.
Trump tweeted Friday he would discuss the “tragic terrorist attack” with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. Trump continued his tweet by reiterating the United States’ need for a border wall and travel ban.
“Will be calling the President of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life. We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt,” Trump tweeted.
Earlier Friday, Trump denounced the deadly attack, calling it “horrible and cowardly.”
Trump tweeted Friday: “Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”
The White House also released a statement condemning the attack and offered their condolences to the families affected.
Islamist extremists were suspected of launching the attack on the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, some 25 miles from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported. Officials suspected a local affiliate of ISIS of carrying out the attack. Islamic militants consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith, The Associated Press reported.
Security officers said the men opened fire on worshipers during prayers while driving in off-road vehicles. A Ministry of Health spokesman said the terrorists set off a bomb during the attack.
“[the extremists] were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a resident told Reuters. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”
Resident Ashraf el-Hefny told The Associated Press many of the victims were workers at a nearby salt firm who had come for Friday services at the mosque, which had contained some 300 worshipers.
“Local people brought the wounded to hospital on their own cars and trucks,” el-Hefny said.
Security officials told local media that militants were blocking escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks in the street.
Sky News reported the Egyptian Government declared a three day period of mourning following the mosque attack.
El-Sissi condemned the attack, calling it “criminal” and “cowardly” and expressed condolences to the victims and their families. The president vowed the attack “will not go unpunished” and that Egypt will persevere in its war on terrorism.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but ISIS has targeted Sufis in the past, notably beheading a leading Sufi religious figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, last year and posting photos of the killing online.
The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the ISIS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
Last month, militants attacked police in the Western Desert, killing 16 officers. Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 84 miles southwest of the capital, Cairo.
Militants have also been blamed for attacking Egypt’s small Christian population. Attacks on the Christian community has surged in recent month with a series of suicide bombings claimed by the extremist Islamic state group of killing more than 100 since Dec. 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.