At least 20 worshippers were killed and another 40 wounded when gunmen opened fire in a Mosque near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum Friday night.
The Mosque was packed with Ramadan worshippers
The attack took place during Friday's evening prayers in the village of Jarafa on the outskirts of Omdurman, a suburb of Khartoum. The mosque, belonging to the moderate Ansar al-Sunna sect, was packed with worshippers attending the evening prayers closing a day of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Police rushing to the scene killed an assailant armed with a Kalashnikov after a brief firefight. Ambulances and private cars were used to rush the injured to a hospital in Omdurman. Some of the wounded were said to be in critical condition.
Sudanese television initially reported that a lone gunman had fired at random with an automatic rifle, but witnesses said that there were three or more assailants. One witness was quoted by the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency (MENA) as saying that all but one of the gunmen fled before the police arrived on the scene.
Assailant reportedly was a member of al-Takfir group
A police spokesman identified the slain gunman as Abbas Baqir Abbas, a member of the extremist Takfir wal-Hijra group.
Al-Takfir wal-Hijrah, whose name translates as "Redemption and Flight," a reference to the flight of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina, at the beginning of Islamic history. The movement, which originated in Egypt advocates the establishment of a "purified" society, based solely on Islamic law, or Shariah. This society is to be the core of a revolution in which all secular Islamic governments are overthrown and replaced with the rule of Shariah. Its members reject secular power in Muslim countries, and call for the restoration of the Islamic "Caliphate" as the only legitimate leadership in Arab and Islamic countries.
Third major attack on al-Sunna mosques
The Ansar al-Sunna sect is not connected to any political group in Sudan, but has links with the orthodox Sunni Muslim Wahhabi sect allied with the Saud royal family in Saudi Arabia. Ansar al-Sunna mosques in Sudan have come under attack twice before.
In an attack similar to Friday's incident, 16 people were killed when a mosque of the Ansar al-Sunna sect in Omdurman was attacked by three gunmen. The attack was led by Mohammed Abdullah al-Khilaifi, an Islamist of Libyan origin who had fought in Afghanistan. One of the attackers was killed by police, while al-Khilaifi and a Sudanese were executed in 1995. In a similar incident in 1996, 12 people were killed in Omdurman in an attack on another Ansar al-Sunna mosque.
It was not clear if Friday's attack was linked to the upcoming Sudanese elections, due to commence on Monday. Most of the opposition parties are boycotting the polls. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, whose 1989 military coup brought an Islamist government to power, is thus all but guaranteed re-election.
Sources: Reuters, Agence France Presse, BBC