A picture taken on November 25, 2017, shows the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack. (AFP / STR)
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Elders of a village in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula where militants killed 305 people in a mosque had been warned by Daesh (ISIS) operatives to stop collaborating with security forces and to suspend rituals associated with Islam's mystical Sufi movement, security officials and residents said Sunday.Ahmed Saqr, an expert on the Sinai insurgency, said militants had publicly identified the mosque, which also serves as a Sufi center, as a target months ago.Celebrations climax on Wednesday and Thursday, when millions of the Sufi movement's followers are expected to gather for rituals in mosques, shrines and squares across much of this majority Muslim country.Militants from the Daesh affiliate have targeted Sufis before. Last year, they beheaded a leading Sufi religious figure, Sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, who was believed to be over 90 years old. Perhaps as many as 15 million Egyptians belong to Sufi orders, which hold sessions with chanting, poetry readings and ritual dancing meant to draw the faithful closer to God. Sufis also revere the tombs of holy men.Islamic hard-liners view such practices as improper, even heretical, and militants in the region often destroy Sufi shrines, saying they encourage idolatry because people pray to those buried there.
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