Ali Gomaa
Ali Gomaa Reuters

Gunmen opened fire at former Egyptian mufti Ali Gomaa in a Cairo suburb on Friday, missing the pro-government cleric but wounding a bodyguard, the interior ministry said, according to AFP.

Gomaa was on his way to a mosque near his home when the assailants hiding in a park started shooting, the ministry said.

His guards exchanged fire with the gunmen and forced them to flee, it said, adding that one of the guards was lightly wounded.

Gomaa later told Egyptian state television of how he had taken shelter behind a mosque wall when the shooting started.

After the attack, he "conducted the Friday prayers as a message to these people", the cleric said in a telephone interview.

"This attempt is a message aimed at creating fear," he said, according to AFP.

Egypt's privately-owned CBC Extra news channel showed footage of armed guards with pistols drawn escorting Gomaa out of the mosque after the shooting.

In an interview with the channel, Gomaa said this was not the first attempt on his life and derided the assailants as "very stupid".

"They blew up my house in Fayoum," he said, referring to a province southwest of Cairo. He added that assailants had also "tried before from the park" outside his Cairo home.

Gomaa was the mufti -- the government's official interpreter of Islamic law -- for a decade until 2013.

He strongly backed the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi that year and the subsequent deadly crackdown on his supporters.

Since stepping down as mufti, Gomaa has remained one of the country's top Islamic scholars.

AFP noted he is known for his moderate views on religion but is reviled by the Islamist opposition for supporting the crackdown against them that has killed hundreds of protesters.

In 2012 while still serving as Grand Mufti, Gomaa sparked uproar in Egypt when he visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The visit was condemned by his Islamist opponents,who refuse to visit what they term “the Palestinian territories” as long as they are under the so-called “Israeli occupation.” Such visits, believe the Islamists, would be counted as a kind of normalization with Israel.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)