It appears like the attack has been carried out by the area’s Islamic State affiliate and left at least an other 100 injured.
The extremists stormed the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 25 miles from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon.
The militants blocked possible escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads hindering people from getting to safety. Victims are being transferred to local hospitals, police officers confirm.
Cairo’s international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troops seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.
The battle between security forces and militants in northern Sinai has been going on for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets.
Assassinations of individuals IS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.
Hundreds of soldiers and militants have already been killed in the conflict, but exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.
This attack is being considered the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the IS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
MENA, the states news agency, reports that Egypt’s presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.