Egypt imam vows to finish sermon after mosque massacre
The young Egyptian imam who survived the Sinai mosque massacre that killed 305 people vowed on Sunday from his hospital bed to go back and resume the sermon he never finished.
Mohammed Abdel Fattah, 26, was delivering the Friday sermon at the North Sinai Rawda mosque when blasts erupted.
"I was only two minutes into my sermon when I heard two explosions outside the mosque, and then I saw worshippers running in horror," he said.
"Then people entered the mosque and began firing at everyone who was still standing," the preacher said from his hospital bed in the Nile Delta town of Al-Husayniya.
Abdel Fattah - who has been imam for two years at the Rawda mosque frequented by Sufis - said his sermon on that tragic day was about "Mohammed, the prophet of humanity".
The imam fell from the raised minbar, or pulpit, when the attack broke out and was trampled by worshippers who tried to flee the carnage.
And when he hit the ground, people stepped over him, before the bodies of those shot by the attackers piled on top of him, pinning him down and preventing him from lifting his head to see what was going on.
"As soon as the shooting started I fell. I didn't see or feel anything except for the two or three bloodied bodies that fell on top of me," he said.
Among the first casualties was 62-year-old Fathy Ismail, the mosque's muezzin who called the faithful to prayer.
Authorities said up to 30 militants in camouflage clothing and flying the black banner of the Islamic State group surrounded the mosque and opened fire on the faithful during the main weekly prayers.
Abdel Fattah suffered bruising, but his health appears to be improving and he hopes to be back on his feet to continue the sermon that was brutally interrupted.
"If my health allows it, I will return next Friday week (to Rawda mosque) and finish my sermon," he said.
Meanwhile, Sufi Muslims in Egypt plan to proceed with a major annual celebration to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.
In a defiant statement late Saturday, the Egyptian Supreme Council for Sufi Orders said the annual commemoration would still take place at Cairo's Al-Hussein mosque, one of Islam's most prominent sites in Egypt, and also "across the country".
However, a procession that normally takes place has been cancelled "in mourning for the souls of the martyrs of the terrorist incident at the Rawda mosque, and to ease the security burden".
The procession from Cairo's Salah al-Jaafari mosque to the Al-Hussein mosque, named after the prophet's grandson, covers a distance that would normally be just a 15-minute walk.
But "it takes hours for the procession to reach Al-Hussein because it is attended by thousands of people", council spokesman Ahmed Kandil told AFP.
Egypt's North Sinai-based IS branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, as well as civilians accused of working with the authorities, since the July 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.