Sinai attacks kill at least 29 Egyptian soldiers

An Egyptian soldier near the Rafah border with Gaza.

An Egyptian soldier near the Rafah border with Gaza.

Three more Egyptian soldiers were killed in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday, hours after an attack on two armored vehicles that stopped at a checkpoint killed 26 soldiers, security sources said.

An earlier report said 10 soldiers were killed and several other soldiers were seriously wounded in the first attack, which took place in the border area of Karm el-Qawadees in the Sinai Peninsula.

Security sources gave conflicting accounts of what happened. Initially sources said it was a car bomb, but a security sources later told Al Arabiya that mortar shells were fired on the vehicles, one of which was loaded with ammunition.

Eyewitnesses had earlier heard a loud explosion near the Egyptian town of al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday afternoon in what appeared to be an attack on a nearby army installation.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi convened Egypt’s national security body to discuss the deadly attack, Al Arabiya correspondent in Cairo reported.

Security forces face a jihadist insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the army toppled President Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year after mass protests against his rule. Most attacks have been in Sinai.

Last Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded near an armored vehicle guarding a gas pipeline in north Sinai, killing seven soldiers, AFP reported.

In September, militants killed 17 policemen in Sinai in two bombings and later released footage of the attacks.

Those bombings were claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the most active militant group in Egypt. It tried to assassinate the interior minister in Cairo last year with a car bomb.

The group has expressed support for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), although it has not formally pledged its allegiance.

The military has said it killed at least 22 militants in October, including a local Ansar Beit al-Maqdis commander.

The group itself has acknowledged the arrest or deaths of its cadres, but so far the army has been unable to quell the militants despite a massive operation in which it has deployed attack helicopters and tanks.

The militants sometimes operate openly in north Sinai, setting up impromptu checkpoints and handing out leaflets.

They say they target policemen and soldiers to avenge a bloody police crackdown on Islamists after Morsi’s overthrow that killed hundreds in street clashes and imprisoned thousands more.

 
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