Province of Sinai militants instructed Rawda villagers last week to stop performing Sufi rituals near the mosque where at least 305 people were killed in a militant attack on Friday, according to a source in the village that spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.
The source told Mada Masr that the Sufi sheikh in charge of conducting the rituals in the worshipping space in a building facing the mosque complied with the militants’ demands. He added that locals expected an attack on the building was imminent nonetheless, and that they had closed the road adjacent to the building as a precautionary measure.
Villagers were surprised, however, that the militants who conducted Friday’s attack in the village in Bir al-Abd, 40 km west of the North Sinai capital of Arish, circumvented the roadblock, according to the source.
By Friday evening, families had begun burying victims, according to locals who spoke to Mada Masr. A journalist from North Sinai told Mada Masr that the Armed Forces has barred journalists from photographing the funerals and from entering the Rawda mosque.
According to the source from the village, not all Rawda residents participate in the Sufi rituals in the building adjacent to the mosque, and the village had become a site of refuge for families fleeing the North Sinai cities of Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah to escape fighting between militants and security forces. The mosque also serves as resting space for travellers on the Arish-Qantara Road, especially on Fridays when cars of travellers are often parked outside the mosque during prayer, the source added.
Rawda is home to the Jaririya Sufi order, one of the largest Sufi orders in North Sinai. The village’s mosque that was targeted on Friday is one of the main mosques affiliated with the order.
The order derives its name from Sheikh Eid Abu Jarir — the order’s founder — who hails from Sinai’s Sawarka tribe and the Jarira clan, which resides in the Bir al-Abd area.
The motive behind Friday’s militant attack, which was the deadliest in Egyptian history, remains unclear, and no group has claimed responsibility for it.
Translated by Osman El Sharnoubi