Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu hints Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

PM tells NATO ambassadors that Israeli intel has thwarted ‘several dozen major terrorist attacks,’ some involving civil aviation

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday indicated that Israel has prevented hijacked airplanes from crashing into European cities.

“We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries,” he told foreign diplomats in Jerusalem.

“Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives,” Netanyahu said, apparently referring to plane hijackings.

He did not provide specific details about the attacks Israel helped prevent. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to elaborate.

At a meeting of Israel-based ambassadors to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Netanyahu said Jerusalem contributes to the security of every single member of the Western defense alliance, in that it fights both Sunni and Shiite strands of radical Islam.

Injured people are evacuated from the scene of a terrorist attack on a mosque in Bir al-Abd in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt on November 24, 2017. (AP Photo)

Besides fighting Islamic State terrorism aimed at European cities, Israel is also preventing the group from creating a second stronghold in Egypt, he said.

“ISIS is being destroyed in Iraq and Syria, but it is trying to establish an alternative territorial base in the Sinai. Israel is contributing to preventing that in myriad ways,” Netanyahu said. “In general, I would say that Israel is the most powerful indigenous force in the Middle East that fights radical Islam.”

Israel further helps NATO by fighting Iran, the dominant Shiite power, the prime minister went on. The Jewish state does not only seek to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is also “absolutely committed to preventing Iran from establishing a military base in Syria. And we back our words with action,” he added, likely hinting at various airstrikes on weapon convoys and factories allegedly carried out by Israel.

Furthermore, Iran plans to import 100,000 Shiite fighters to Syria as part of its quest to dominate and eventually “conquer” the Middle East, he charged.

Israeli satellite images show results of an airstrike attributed to the IDF on a Syrian military weapons development base on September 7, 2017. (ImageSat International)

If Tehran were successful in its efforts, radical Sunni and Shiite forces would clash in Syria, sending millions of refugees to European shores, the prime minister warned.

“Where will the spillover [of a Sunni-Shiite clash in Syria] happen? In Europe. Where will the human flow go? To Europe. Who’s preventing that right now? Israel? Right now, Israel alone. But I maintain that it’s a common interest that we have,” he told the NATO ambassadors during the public part of the event.

Israel and NATO have cooperated on security matters for decades but recently upgraded their ties significantly. Last year, Israel opened its first office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the Jewish state opposes the presence of Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, in southern Syria and Lebanon.

Israel has been negotiating with the United States and Russia, the main brokers in Syria, to keep Iran-backed Shiite militias and the Hezbollah terrorist group away from the border.

Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others have all said that Israel’s policy is to target shipments of advanced weaponry, including accurate long-range missiles, that are heading to or in the possession of Hezbollah.

In late December, Assad’s troops, accompanied by Iranian-backed fighters, recaptured the Syrian Golan from rebels, allowing President Bashar Assad to reassert control over a small portion of the area adjacent to the Israeli border. Still, much of the area along the border, around the city of Quneitra, remains under rebel control.

Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the most serious immediate threat to Israel was posed by Hezbollah, followed by other jihadist groups supported by Tehran positioned on the Syrian border.

Describing Iran as a “multidimensional threat,” the army chief said the most worrying aspect is the Islamic Republic’s desire to obtain nuclear capabilities, followed by its efforts to achieve hegemony in the region.

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Civilians fire back against Helwan (Egypt) church attacker  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT)

 

Video: Civilians fire back against Helwan church attacker



Video footage of the militant attack targeting the Church of Saint Menasin the Cairo’s suburban Helwan district has emerged, showing the militant opening fire against a number of civilians and security officials attempting to guard the church.

The militant exchanged fire with and killed a member of the security forces guarding the church.

A number of the civilians seized the gun of the killed security member and fired back towards the militant, but failed to kill him.

Another video showed a militant lying on the ground, injured after exchanging fire with security forces that arrived to the scene. Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahd said that this militant is now dead.

Nine people were killed and another ten injured in clashes after two armed militants attacked the church.

Security forces had already imposed barriers in the area surrounding the church, as a measure for heightening security procedure during the Christmas and holiday period.

Yet, despite this, the militants targeted the church, opening fire against the security checkpoint surrounding the church.

The second fled the scene, according to reports from state-run media outlets.

As an emergency measure following the attack, police and armed forces increased security and closed all churches inside the Helwan suburb.

At Least 10 People Killed In Shooting At Cairo Egypt Church

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

(CAIRO) — At least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire outside a church in a south Cairo suburb, Egypt’s Health Ministry spokesman said Friday. It was the latest attack targeting the mostly Muslim country’s embattled minority.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said the attack outside the Coptic Church of Mar Mina left at least one policeman dead and eight others wounded, including two critically. The attack took place when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire outside the church, he said.

Egyptian security officials said earlier that two policemen were killed in the shootout and the discrepancy was not immediately clear. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A video circulated on social media after the attack apparently shows the gunman lying on the ground. Authorities have closed off the area around the church.

Samir Gerges, a witness, said people inside the church closed the gates when the shootout began but bullets from the gunfire still entered the building. Gerges said he was walking in a nearby street when the shooting happened. He saw people running and some of them went to hide from the gunfire inside a nearby restaurant.

Raouth Atta, 40, was attending prayers inside the church when the shooting took place.

“Once the gunfire was heard, the gates were closed immediately,” she told The Associated Press over the phone. “People were terrified and wanted to check on their families in other buildings of the church. We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out.”

Atta said that once she was let outside the building she saw blood scattered everywhere.

The spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that at least six people were killed in the attack, including five Copts and a policeman. It also said there was a separate attack on a store in the same suburb of Helwan that killed two Copts.

Egypt’s Christian minority has been targeted by Islamic militants in a series of attacks since December 2016 that left more than 100 dead and scores wounded. The country has been under a state of emergency since April after suicide bombings struck two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday in an attack that was claimed by the local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have long complained of discrimination in the Muslim-majority nation, and say authorities have often failed to protect them from sectarian attacks.

Just last week, hundreds of Muslim demonstrators stormed an unlicensed church south of Cairo wounding three people. The demonstrators shouted anti-Christian slogans and called for the church’s demolition, the diocese in the area said at the time. The demonstrators destroyed the church’s contents and assaulted Christians inside before security personnel arrived and dispersed them.

Egypt Takes New Step to Become a Regional Energy Hub

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY  OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt Takes New Step to Become a Regional Energy Hub

Thursday, 28 December, 2017 – 12:00
FILE PHOTO: A plant’s gas tanks are seen at the desert road of Suez city north of Cairo, Egypt August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Asharq Al-Awsat

In the coming days Egypt will inaugurate a new wharf for natural gas and petroleum product tankers on the Gulf of Suez.

SUMED, which has operated two pipelines from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, will build the new wharf.

The 2.5 km wharf will have three berths to receive natural gas and petroleum products carriers.

“The country has been building fuelling depots for ships along the Suez Canal and expanding its refining capacity, and has an extensive pipeline network and two idle gas liquefaction plants ready to export new gas as it arrives,” Reuters stated.

SUMED is owned %50 by the Egyptian government, while the rest by Arab oil exporters in the Gulf.

The pipeline is spending $415 million to develop its facilities, including building nine 300,000 cubic meter petroleum storage tanks and loading and offloading facilities.

The tanks are due to be completed by the end of 2018, said SUMED chairman Mohamed Abdel-Hafez.

NBK-Egypt provided $300 million in financing for the project, according to a statement by the bank in May.

Egypt FM in Ethiopia to End Standoff in Talks on Nile Dam

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt FM in Ethiopia to End Standoff in Talks on Nile Dam

Tuesday, 26 December, 2017 – 12:15
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (Reuters)
Cairo – Asharq Al-Awsat

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry is scheduled to head to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday to resume the negotiations with his counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu regarding the Renaissance Dam project on the Nile River.

The talks aim at breaking over the dam, which Addis Ababa is building on one of the main tributaries of the Nile.

Cairo said the dam would threaten water supplies that have fed Egypt’s agriculture and economy for thousands of years.

Ethiopia, for its part, said the dam, which it hopes will help make it Africa’s largest power exporter, will have no major effect on Egypt.

It accuses Cairo of flexing its political muscle to deter financiers from backing other Ethiopian power projects.

Egyptian officials said safeguarding the country’s quota of Nile water is a matter of national security.

“No one can touch Egypt’s water … (which) means life or death for a population,” President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said last month.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Ahmed Abou Zeid affirmed in a statement that this move comes in light of the Egyptian desire to end the standoff in talks on the dam’s specialized technical committee work.

Abou Zeid also said that Shoukry’s visit aims to express Egypt’s good intentions regarding cooperating and rebuilding confidence with Ethiopia to preserve both countries’ rights to Nile water.

Delegations from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Cairo in November to approve a study by a French firm commissioned to assess the dam’s environmental and economic impact.

However, negotiations stalled when they failed to agree on the initial report with each blaming others for blocking progress.

Shoukry is willing to bring new ideas and proposals to light to help the technical committee in its work, according to the statement.

The negotiations will also include discussing the details of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s visit to Egypt next January.

Egypt uncovers ancient tombs at Luxor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Egypt uncovers ancient tombs at Luxor

Archaeologists work on a mummy at a tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank, 700km south of Cairo, Egypt, 09 December 2017.Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe mummy is believed to be that of a senior official from the New Kingdom

Archaeologists in Egypt have displayed items, including a mummy, from one of two previously unexplored tombs in the ancient Nile city of Luxor.

The mummy is believed to be that of a senior official from Egypt’s “New Kingdom”, about 3,500 years ago.

Other items included figurines, wooden masks and richly coloured wall paintings.

The tombs lie in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis, an area famed for its temples and burial grounds.

It is close to the Valley of the Kings where many of ancient Egypt’s pharaohs were buried.

Egypt’s antiquities ministry said that the tombs had been discovered by a German archaeologist in the 1990s, but were kept sealed until recently.

Mustafa al-Waziri, Director General of Luxor's Antiquities, inside the tombImage copyrightAFP
Image captionAntiquities expert Mustafa al-Waziri showed reporters the intricate wall murals inside the tomb
Painted wooden masks on display at a tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor, Egypt, 9 December 2017Image copyrightEPA
Image captionPainted wooden masks were found inside the excavated tomb

The identity of the mummified body is not known but the ministry says there are two possibilities.

It could be a person named Djehuty Mes, whose name is engraved on one of the walls, or it could be a scribe called Maati whose name – and the name of his wife, Mehi – are written on funerary cones, officials said.

The other tomb was only recently “uncovered” and has not yet been fully excavated, the ministry said.

In September, archaeologists discovered the tomb of a royal goldsmith near Luxor.

The tomb, which also dated back to the New Kingdom, contained a statue of the goldsmith Amenemhat, sitting beside his wife.

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Egypt Orders Military to Use all Force to Secure Sinai

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS PAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt Orders Military to Use all Force to Secure Sinai

Wednesday, 29 November, 2017 – 10:45
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stated on Wednesday that it was the responsibility of the military to restore security and stability in the Sinai peninsula within the next three months.

He ordered the army command to use all force necessary to secure the area, following a militant attack on a mosque last week that killed more than 300 people.

The president made his demand while addressing the new chief of staff Major General Mohammed Farid Hegazy in a speech marking the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.

Hegazy was appointed last month.

“You can use all brute force necessary,” urged Sisi without elaborating.

No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s mosque attack, but Egyptian forces have been battling a stubborn ISIS affiliate in the North Sinai for more than three years and militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

The massacre, which took place as worshippers were praying in a village mosque on Friday, was the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

On Tuesday, Egyptian authorities said security forces have killed at least 14 extremists in Sinai and an adjacent Suez Canal province following Friday’s attack.

The Interior Ministry said 11 of the suspected militants were killed in a shootout on a farm in Ismailia province. Six suspects were arrested there.

Military spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Rifai added that three suspected extremists were killed in central Sinai. He did not elaborate.

Why the massacre of Muslims in Sinai was too extreme for al Qaeda

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Why the massacre of Muslims in Sinai was too extreme for al Qaeda

(CNN)It is unusual for militant Islamist’s to condemn terror attacks against “non-believers,” but so grotesque was last Friday’s onslaught in Egypt that several extremist groups have threatened revenge against its perpetrators.

While no one has yet claimed the attack, its location and method point to the Islamic State in Northern Sinai (ISNS), a group that has proved both ruthless and resilient in the face of the Egyptian military’s attempts to crush it over the last four years.
More than 300 people were killed — among them nearly 30 children — as they attended prayers at the al Rawdah mosque near the Sinai town of Bir al-Abed. The mosque was associated with the Sufi tradition within Islam, which is regarded as apostasy by ISIS and by some in al Qaeda.

Hundreds killed in Egypt mosque attack

The Islamic State in Northern Sinai is an affiliate of ISIS and the most powerful jihadist group in Egypt — but not the only one. Smaller militant factions closer to al Qaeda quickly distanced themselves from the mosque attack.
Jund al-Islam, which is regarded as pro-al Qaeda, declared that it was “a great sin and transgression to violate the sanctities of Muslims.” It claims to have carried out an attack last month against ISNS, which it regards as “Khawarij” — a term from the 8th century used to describe those who go against Islamic leaders and institutions.
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Another militant group — Ansar al-Islam — offered condolences to the families of the victims of the massacre and said that God promised torment for anyone who killed a Muslim unjustly. In a statement issued on Saturday, it pledged to take revenge against the “transgressors who spilled the blood of the worshipers in a house of Allah.”
Ansar al-Islam is well-organized and regarded as more aligned with al Qaeda than ISIS. It claimed responsibility for a devastating ambush of Egyptian troops in the western desert last month.
The group is led by Hisham Ashmawy, a former captain in the Egyptian special forces. Ashmawy belonged to the group in Sinai that preceded ISNS — known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — but he appears to have left when it became an affiliate of ISIS. Counter-terrorism analysts have said the split was both ideological and to do with personal rivalries.
The condemnation of the ISNS attack is evidence of the ever-widening enmity between ISIS affiliates and al Qaeda-inspired groups, and raises the question of whether the latter will begin to confront ISNS militarily as well as ideologically.

True believers

ISIS is doctrinaire about its definition of true Muslims, and has often warned that it would target the Sufi community. “Our focus lies in the war against polytheism and apostasy, and among those Sufism, sorcery and divination,” said a spokesman in ISIS’ online publication al-Naba a year ago. The article even mentioned al Rawdah, yet the mosque appears to have had little protection.
ISIS is not alone among jihadi groups in targeting other Muslim denominations, and especially Sufis. Adherents of Boko Haram in Nigeria also see Sufism as apostasy. In Pakistan, Sufi shrines have come under frequent attack, most recently in February this year, when a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS killed at least 70 people. And when Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda briefly seized the city of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012, they demolished centuries-old Sufi mausoleums and libraries, several of which were UNESCO world heritage sites.

People gather at the site of the mosque attack on Friday.

Unlike ISIS, the core leadership of al Qaeda has not singled out Sufi communities for attack. It has also distanced itself from overtly sectarian campaigns of violence against the Shia, most notably by Abu Musab al Zarqawi during the Iraqi insurgency between 2004 and 2006. Zarqawi’s attacks, such as the attempt to destroy the al Askari mosque in Samarra, drew criticism from al Qaeda’s leaders — even though he was affiliated to al Qaeda at the time.
But the rhetoric of al Qaeda and its affiliates against the Shia has hardened in recent years — especially in Syria and Yemen, amid what some observers call a multidimensional civil war within Islam.

ISNS: Resilient, capable, vicious

ISNS has frequently shown its audacity in Sinai, even sometimes erecting roadblocks around al-Arish, the Mediterranean town at the heart of the violence and some 40 kilometers from al Rawdah.
The group is well-armed and well-trained. On one occasion it used a missile to hit an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast. It has expertise in building IEDs, which have taken a heavy toll on Egyptian security patrols. And in 2015 it claimed to have smuggled a bomb inside a soda can on board a Russian airliner which exploded shortly after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in southern Sinai.
The nature of Friday’s assault, a complex operation involving both a bomb attack and subsequent ambush of worshipers and ambulances by dozens of fighters, is typical of ISNS. But it is different in one crucial respect: most of the group’s attacks until now have targeted Egyptian security forces in Sinai — whether by IED or assassination.
Not for the first time, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi threatened to crush the militants, saying in a short statement that “the armed forces and police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force.”
It is a familiar pledge, but the impunity with which the attackers struck demonstrates the inability of the Egyptian security forces to stamp out ISNS, despite a massive deployment of the army and strikes by F-15 fighter jets.
Omar Ashour, visiting professor at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar and a longtime observer of the Sinai insurgency, says the mix of guerrilla warfare and urban terror tactics has “undermined both the morale and the capacities of the regular forces, a historically incompetent one with limited success in conventional warfare and counter-insurgency campaigns.”
The government has been able to recruit some tribes against ISNS, but the group has still been able to find recruits among the marginalized Bedouin youth of Sinai, long a neglected backwater of Egypt where the writ of central government means little. It is helped by the fact is that Sinai is huge — almost the size of Texas — and sparsely populated.
Sinai also has a long history of smuggling — of people, drugs and weapons — and counter-terrorism analysts say ISNS has been able to obtain weapons by sea from Libya and elsewhere.

Relatives of the victims of the mosque attack sit outside a hospital Saturday in the eastern port city of Ismailia.

The staying power of ISNS and its growing capabilities also concern Israel. The group has attempted several border incursions, and several ISIS operatives have been detained by Hamas in Gaza, after apparently crossing from the Sinai.
Amos Harel — writing in Haaretz — was critical of the Egyptian military’s response, saying “quicker action is needed, combining precise intelligence and commando forces.”
But Ashour says the Egyptian state’s over-reliance on force in Sinai, coupled with the neglect of the region and a polarized political situation in Egypt as a whole, suggest the government is a long way from bringing peace to the area.

Sufi Islam: What you need to know after Egypt’s deadly mosque attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWS PAPER)

((oped) Folks, this is a great article to help people to understand the differences within the sects of Islam!)(trs)

Sufi Islam: What you need to know after Egypt’s deadly mosque attack



A suspected “Islamic State” militant attack on a mosque in the Sinai peninsula on Friday was the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history.

The motive behind the attack that killed more than 300 worshipers remains unclear. But the prospect of IS targeting a mosque frequented by Sufis has raised the specter of further violence against a form of mystical Islam with deep roots in the Muslim world.

What is Sufism?

Sufism is a mystical and acetic Islam practiced by tens of millions of Muslims. Known as “Tasawwuf” in the Muslim world, in the West it is often erroneously thought of as a separate sect.

Sufism is more prominent among Sunnis, but there are also Shiite Sufi orders, or “tariqa.”

Followers of Sufism believe they can become closer to Allah through inner purification and introspection. They do this by meditating and receiving guidance from their spiritual leaders, or “murshid” (guide).

Adherents of Sufism follow the five pillars of Islam just as other practicing Muslims. They declare faith in one God Allah and Mohammed as his messenger, pray five times a day, give to charity, fast and perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Timothy Winter, an Islamic scholar at the University of Cambridge, describes Sufism as “a broad devotional tendency.”

“There are no practices or beliefs characteristic of all Sufis. It is too diverse for that,” he told DW.

The most well-known “tariqa” in the Western world is the Mevlevi Order, founded by the followers of the 13th Century Persian poet and mystic Rumi after his death in the Turkish city of Konya.

The Mevlevi Order performs the Sufi practice of “dhikr” in a musical ceremony and dance, giving them the moniker “Whirling Dervishes.”

Dhikr is a central practice in Sufism, whereby adherents recite divine verses and intone the name of Allah. It can be performed individually or in a group, and can be quiet or out loud. Dhikr practices vary among Sufi orders.

‘Sufism provides for joy in life’

Sheikh Esref Efendi, the spiritual head of the Germany-based Sufi Center Rabbaniya, which is part of the Naqshbandi Order, described Sufism for DW.

“The Sufis are Muslims and live Islam in perfection with body and soul. The body of Islam is Sharia, the law, and soul of Islam is Sufism, spirituality. For Sufis, Sharia is indispensable, because law provides order in life and Sufism provides for joy in life. The daily remembrance of God in the dhikr and the different forms of meditation in the community, strengthen the conscious feeling of closeness to God and the charity for the other.”

He continued: “Sufis adhere to the prophet’s tradition of loving every creature for the sake of the Creator’s love. So they overlook the mistakes and blemishes of the people they encounter and only look at the light of God in them. By recognizing the light of God, the Sufis practice forgiveness of mistakes of man.”

Origins

Sufism originated after the death of Mohammed in 632, but it did not develop into orders until the 12th Century.

The orders were formed around spiritual founders, who gained saint status and shrines built in their names. There are dozens of Sufi orders and offshoots.

Sufism spread throughout the Muslim world, becoming a central component of many peoples’ religious practice from Indonesia and South Asia to Africa and the Balkans.

Sufi orders were sometimes close to the ruling powers such as the Ottoman Empire, helping their spread and influence.

As it spread, it often adapted to and incorporated local beliefs and customs that made it popular, but would later become to be viewed by Islamic extremist groups as heretical.

Salafism and Wahhabism

The 18th Century saw the emergence of a new puritanical Islamic ideology and movement on the Arab peninsula that would later give birth to violent extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS.

Wahhabism sought to purge Sunni Islam of accretions and innovations such as the widespread Sufi practice of venerating saints and visiting tombs and shrines. The goal was to create a “pure” Islam.

The Wahhabi movement allied with the House of Saud, which eventually established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

From the 1960s onward, Saudi and Arab Gulf oil wealth helped fuel the global expansion of Wahhabism ideology, which is often associated with hardline Salafism.

Salafist jihadists have repeatedly targeted Sufis, deeming them heretics. They have also targeted Christians, Shiites and others they deem apostates.

Al-Qaeda linked militants in 2012 destroyed ancient Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, Mali, drawing international condemnation. But IS that has taken the jihadist violent ideology further.

Earlier this year, an IS suicide bomber killed more than 70 people at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan.

While no group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on a mosque attended by Sufis in the Sinai peninsula, it bore all the signs of IS.

It comes as the Egyptian IS affiliate last year beheaded the blind Sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, a Sufi figure.  In January, IS’ online propaganda magazine advocated targeting Sufis and warned it would “not permit (their) presence.”

Wahhabism vs everything else

For centuries, most of the Muslim world has accepted Sufism, a stance that has been supported by leading mainstream Sunni Muslim scholars and centers of learning.

“The current disputes in the Middle East are not really between ‘Sufism’ and ‘extremism,’ but between Wahhabism and everything else,” said Winter, adding that mainstream Sunni Islam advocates tolerance and peace.

As Sheikh Esref Efendi explains, IS only sees perceived violations within Islam and “not the people and the light in the people, and therefore call Sufis traitors of Islam.”

“IS thinks that any wrong must be punished. They think and commit even the greatest sin of Islam: They declare themselves Gods who can decide on life and death and use violence to kill.”

Egypt mosque attack: At least 235 killed during Friday prayers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Egypt mosque attack: At least 235 killed in bomb blast, gunfire during Friday prayers

The state media said that the attack on Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed had left more than 125 injured.

INDIA Updated: Nov 24, 2017 23:42 IST

AFP, Cairo
Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque on Friday.
Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque on Friday.(AFP Photo)

Militants killed 235 people at a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai region on Friday, detonating a bomb and shooting at fleeing worshippers and ambulances, the state television reported, quoting the public prosecutor.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in the region’s Islamist insurgency. No group claimed immediate responsibility, but since 2014 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the north of the mainly desert Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of the city of El Arish.

State television and the official news agency MENA reported that 235 people had been killed. Another 125 were wounded, according to state media.

“They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident whose relatives were at the scene told Reuters. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants, convened an emergency meeting with his defence and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack, the presidency’s Facebook page and state television said.

The government also declared three days of mourning.

Militants have mostly targeted security forces in their attacks since bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi, then an armed forces commander, led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But jihadists have also targeted local Sinai tribes that are working with the armed forces, branding them traitors for cooperating with the army and police.

In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Militants have tried to expand beyond the largely barren, Sinai Peninsula into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims.

In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group travelling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.