North Sinai, Egypt — On Friday, terrorists detonated a bomb inside a mosque. They surrounded the building and set up gun positions, firing upon surviving civilians as they fled for their lives. Eventually several of the gunman entered the mosque as well. Over 120 people are reportedly wounded and now it has been reported that over 300 were killed. The mosque was a Sufi mosque, known as the “mystic” sect of Islam.
According to The Times of Israel, grenades were also used and the attackers were so methodical that they even checked to ensure that their targets were dead, finishing off those who were wounded. This may explain why the death toll is so much higher than the injured—usually the injuries doubles or even triples the number of people killed in these types of tragedies, but here it is the other way around. The other obvious difference between this and many other terror attacks is the sheer number of gunman, initial estimates claiming up to 40 armed combatants.
The terrorists also fired at ambulances as they rushed to the scene, preventing life-saving treatment to the wounded worshipers at the mosque.
Still, a specific terrorist organization has yet to claim the attack as their own. Several terror organizations operate within the area, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have historically attacked other locations in the area (though they have tended to stick to churches or Egyptian security forces). Al-Qaeda in Sinai Peninsula (AQSP) also has the resources to pull off this attack, and they have multiple organizations in the area under their purview.
An attack of this nature simply cannot be the product of the lone-wolf method so popular among terror attacks these days. Lone-wolf attacks are generally impossible to trace, since there is generally nothing to trace back to, except the constant encouragement and pushing of terror organizations on social media.
An attack like this is quite clearly a large, organized effort that would have taken an immense amount of planning, coordination and resources all culminating in the devastating attack we saw on Friday.
Another important distinction here is the fact that the mosque was Sufi. Sufi Muslims tend to be quite introspective rather than the outward dominance you see in extremist Islam today. Many Sufi Muslims aren’t necessarily in conflict with the Sunni sect of Islam, but things can be more difficult with other groups. A large part of Sufism is channeling God into your own body to make you a more “perfect man” as they call it, which puts them at odds with the practitioners of Islam that claim that this sort of instruction and guidance comes from the Imams, not a direct, personal relationship with God themselves. Of course, it’s far more complex than that, but that’s the basic idea—at its core, a Sufi Muslim could deny the infallibility of an Imam and, in his eyes, be correct. Others aren’t quite so open-minded.
Understanding the differences between these sects and theologies is fundamental when understanding Islam as a whole. A Sunni is going to consider themselves completely different from a Shiite, sometimes to the point of violence.
Again, it is still unclear if the Sufi connection is what made them a target, but as more information comes to light SOFREP will keep you updated.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press