Friday, December 8, 2017

Al-Rawda Mosque Carnage : Two weeks later

Last Friday, head of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed El-Tayeb led Friday prayers at North Sinai’s El-Rawda Mosque just one week after the horrifying massacre it witnessed where not less than 311 people were killed according to official statements in Egypt's worst terrorist attack.

The week before President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi renewed his orders to the Egyptian armed forces and police force during the official celebration of Prophet Mohamed “PBUH” to use “brute force” or “utmost force” to restore order within three months in the Egyptian Northern East governorate.

The Egyptian Mainstream Media passed over that horrifying massacre as you know life goes on and we should not ask too many questions as terrorism is having its last days in North Sinai.

I had too many questions and I could not find them in the mainstream media as usual.
I can not travel to North Sinai except if I have security permits and unfortunately I could not travel to Ismailia to meet with the injured either as I have been battling flu. Yet, thank God for telephones despite it is not perfect.

In the past week, I managed to speak with locals from both Bir Al-Abd city as well Al-Rawda village through telephone calls.
Their answers and information did not only reveal something I did not know then about the worst massacre in the history of Egypt but also about the situation in general in North Sinai governorate after nearly four years of war against terrorism.
The Black Friday
On Friday 24 November, the People of Bir Al-Abd began to feel that there was something wrong with that 35 km away small village as news came that militants cut the International highway between their city and Al-Rawda.
The news came that afternoon about how there was a bombing inside the village’s mosque during Friday prayers and the injured were transferred to the Bir Al-Abd hospital as there is no medical facility in there.
Al-Rawda Mosque on Google maps
Al-Rawda Mosque on Google maps
Mohamed Khalil, a resident of Bir Al-Abd remembered what happened next very well as he rushed to the hospital to donate blood like others.
“We saw urgent cases of badly injured people flooding into the hospital and found out that it was bigger than the usual militant attacks.” He said describing how a huge number of corpses coming in an unstoppable wave of cars.
Injured rushed in to Bir Al-Abd hospital by Mohamed Ibrahim
Injured rushed in to Bir Al-Abd hospital by Mohamed Ibrahim 
The small Bir Al-Abd hospital turned in to a field hospital with more corpses in the upcoming hours in a horrifying scene before the ministry of health would send over 20 ambulances from Ismailia and Cairo governorates to transfer the injured.

The hospital's supplies already began to run out, especially cotton and plastic bags as well medicine.

" A video shot by Mohamed Khalil showing the people rushing into Bir Al-Abd hospital on that day, he uploaded on 27 November " 

“More injured people began to speak and tell us what happened” He added.
Just as the Imam of the Al-Rawda Mosque began his sermon, masked and unmasked militants appeared encircling the mosque blocking its windows and door, the injured said.The carnage started when the militants opened their fire on whoever was moving in that mosque.
First responders to get in to the village before the security forces, the people of Bir Al-Abd were horrified by the scenes in front of them.
Inside the Rawda Mosque
Inside the Mosque by Mohamed Khalil the day following the carnage
They took video clips and photos documenting bodies all over the Mosque built by the Jarirs, the biggest and main clan in the village which is related to El-Swaraka tribe in North Sinai.
It was not only men who had been killed but also there were at least three women who were shot down by the militants as they hurried to see what is happening in the mosque, to their doomed destiny as we say in Egypt.
“We also found that the militants also killed an elderly man and his wife at their home.” Mohamed Khalil said.
The women victims as well that elderly couple killed in their home did not find their way to the mainstream as they should.
The numbers mystery
The Egyptian government declared that only 311 people were killed while the Facebook Sinai local news pages speak about not less than 320 people.

Mohamed Khalil went and participated in the mass burial of the victims who got no public funerals at night in the nearby Al-Mazar village, where the Al-Rawda’s villagers’ cemetery is.
“There were security officers overseeing the burial who counted the bodies and wrote down their names,” said Khalil adding that the number he got from those officers then was 309 dead bodies buried using bulldozers and manpower.
The mass-burial of the victims late 24 November by  Mohamed Khalil
The mass-burial of the victims late 24 November by
Mohamed Khalil 
“There were other 18 bodies that were buried in another cemetery, so we are speaking about 327 dead bodies on that Friday.” He said describing how everybody participated in the burial including children.

In Islam, martyrs who are got killed are buried without a burial wash or a shroud into their tombs.
Khalil believes the contradiction in the locals’ numbers and the official numbers come from the fact that “things happening in Sinai do not reach the people in the valley”
“We can be speaking about approximately 330 dead as some of the injured died in the following days” He added.

The victims in their coffins by Mohamed Khalil before their burial in the early hours of November 25
The victims in their coffins by Mohamed Khalil before their burial
in the early hours of November 25 
On the other hand, Al-Rawda resident Mohamed Ibrahim believes that this contradiction in the official and local death toll numbers goes to what he thinks as “the policies towards North Sinai”.
“Since 2013 and there was a policy to minimize human casualties in North Sinai, it is better to have smaller numbers.” the University student said.
According to Ibrahim, 350 people mostly from men were killed on Friday 24th November and 5 more died in the following days.

“The eligible male voters in Al-Rawda were 420 per the official statistics we gathered so most of those voters are killed on that Friday.” He said hinting out that there are also 90 to 150 people injured.
“Most women in the village are widows now” He added.

Visiting the village daily from Bir Al-Abd to check on their needs, Mohamed Khalil recounts how the Diwan, which is the main gathering place for men in the village is empty now except may for two or three men. The remaining men are staying in their homes trying to cope with that shock.
According to the official statements of the ministry of solidarity, Al-Rawda village lost ¼ of its men out its 2400 population.
The threats
Yes, the village received threats from Daesh-affiliated militants in the past.
“From three months and a half, masked people reached to the village chief and told him not to hold any Sufi activity in the village,” said Ibrahim hinting to the infamous brutal video released by Daesh in November featuring the cold-blooded execution of Sinai’s oldest Sufi Sheikh following Al-Jaririya Order in November 2016.
“They warned him of holding any Sufi meetings or gatherings” He added.
Al-Rawda Mosque is built by the Jaririya order, Sinai’s biggest Sufi order which it is related to the Jarir clan in the doomed village. The order had a shrine for their Sheikh “Abu El-Jarir” near Al-Arish city but the militants blew it up.

The University student who lives in Al-Arish and studies in its university hinted out that there are or were utmost 20 to 40 Sufi people only in the village.
“Some people stopped indeed while others did not care and continued holding Sufi meetings.” He said.
There were also warning to the villagers not to work in the salt fields owned by the government nearby the village. Seen on Google maps, several salt fields that once Egyptian military intelligence Noam Shakib spoke about in his 1907-Sinai and its Geography book are still there.

In October, militants tried to storm an army-owned cement factory in Central Sinai but they were stopped by a checkpoint guarding the factory. The factory workers reported that they received warnings from the militant group not to cooperate with the army.
A month later, those militants attacked a convoy transporting workers from the factory killing 10 of them. Those two attacks show some sort of change in the targets in North Sinai.
No group has claimed its responsibility for both attacks.

Mohamed Ibrahim also spoke about how the militants allegedly used a very narrow desert road called “Jarir El-Ghozan” from the East of the village to come from and that the people informed the authorities but “nothing was done about it”
Questions raised after the attack about why the security forces did not protect Al-Rawda from the militants after threats especially there is a reportedly security checkpoint hundreds of kilometers away from the village.
Not defending the security authorities but there is another question here: Why did the militants attack the worshipers during the Friday prayers and not during the Sufi gatherings which are known to everybody?

In the past two weeks, there had been rumors about attacks coming from the East and at the same time we read in the past three days how security forces found tons of explosives around it.
A small village becomes big in the news
Al-Rawda is a small village just like any other rural village in Egypt suffering from a shortage of basic services, its difference that it is in North Sinai governorate.
There is one school complex in Al-Rawda serving its people, though the education level there is not high according to Mohamed Khalil.

That school lost six teachers in the attackers along with their kids. Most of the teachers live in Bir Al-Abed but they prayed on that Friday in Al-Rawda Mosque. For the next two weeks, the remaining teachers reopened the school to a very small number of students from all stages.
The Al-Rawda's Elementary schoolyard, empty
two days following the attack "Sinai News" 
“Almost all the women became widows and the children are fatherless in that village,” Mohamed Ibrahim said.
There are no employees thus there are no official pensions. Special pensions were allocated to the villagers from both the government and Al-Azhar institution.
Most of the men in Al-Rawda are day-to-day workers who work in the city of Bir Al-Abd or in the salt fields.
Outside Al-Rawda Mosque
Children searching for relatives' shoes and slippers in that pile
outside Al-Rawda Mosque hours following the attacks "Mohamed Ibrahim"
In the same week of the attack Sisi gave orders to build new cities in North Sinai like New Bir Al-Abd and I do not know how building a new city will solve any problem.

The government discussed how to upgrade the standards of houses, electricity, water and sewage in the original Bir Al-Abd.
The TV channels got others and they shifted to cover quickly.

The first week following the attack life was hard for the Al-Rawda people who haven’t woken up from their shock yet, but they showed great resilience and patience like no other comparing to the size of their catastrophe.

In his 1907-book about Sinai’s geography, Lebanese-Egyptian Shakib Noam spoke that the Jarirs were known in North Sinai by their grace and commitment to religion.

Palestinians in Gaza were speaking about how the simple villagers there opened their houses and helped the Gazans who were stuck before in the Rafah Crossing Drama months ago.

As Muslims, we believe that patience is a blessing of God and that those who are unjustly killed regardless where are martyrs whom on the Day of Judgement would ask the Almighty to pardon their families. Those people were killed while praying to God on a Friday in his House, they are believed to be better in place.
From a psychological point of view, Al-Rawda villagers are still in shock but life goes on eventually.
New carpets brought the mosque
New Mosque carpets were brought to replace the blood-stained ones
the week following the carnage when Sheikh Al-Azhar visited Al-Rawda.
BY Mostafa Singer
There was food as well supply shortage in there as the village depends completely on the city of Bir Al-Abd but as the surrounding highways were a military zone and trucks carrying goods are suspicious even those who got security permits. Even aid conveys from the valleys were not let in the first couple of days.

Ibrahim spoke about how that week killed the movement of trade from the city of Bir Abd not to only Rawda but the rest of North Sinai.

“We are killed everywhere now in North Sinai,” said Mohamed Khalil describing how the civilians in Egypt’s Eastern borders governorate are stuck in that war on terrorism.
There is not official or estimation number of the civilian casualties of that war on terrorism in the past 4 years.
“We got the message of the militants in Bir Al-Abd, they want us to spread fear in ourselves,” He added
No group has claimed responsibility so far after two weeks of the attacks.


  1. I always respect Dr. Ahmed Al Tayab
    Gaze Allah Khier

    *** He also refused to meet USA VP
    Pence after what they did for Al Quds

    1. VP Pence must have been so disappointed.

    2. Disappointed !!!!
      He can go to hell with his president

  2. and later on, we continue our life as if nothing happens. thanks for this information. It really was an eye opener for me. by the way, how can I contact you ? I really want to discuss something about Fadel island with you. Thanks !


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