Egypt Military Targeted in Deadly Sinai Attacks
At least 27 people, mostly soldiers, have been killed in a series of attacks by militants in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Most of the casualties were in the provincial capital, El-Arish.
Militant group Sinai Province, which changed its named from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis when it pledged allegiance to Islamic State, said it carried out the “extensive, simultaneous” attacks, BBC reported.
The first attack in North Sinai on Thursday was a bombing that apparently targeted a military headquarter and a hotel. At least 25 people were killed and almost 60 injured – including civilians – local security and medical services said.
The violence continued with the assassination of an army major at a checkpoint in Rafah. Six others were injured in the raid. Another assault on a checkpoint south of Al-Arish wounded four soldiers.
Later in the day, a roadside bomb killed at least one police officer in Suez city. At least 60 people were wounded in Thursday’s attacks.
Security officials said rockets were first fired at police offices, a military base and a military hotel in El-Arish, before a car bomb exploded at the rear gate of the military base.
Newspaper al-Ahram said its El-Arish office - which is opposite the hotel and base - had been completely destroyed.
They represent some of the worst anti-government violence in Egypt for months, and indicate a previously unseen level of coordination, correspondents and analysts say.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cut short a visit to Ethiopia because of the attacks. “After the terrorist operations in the North Sinai last night, the president decided to cut short his participation in the African Union summit after attending the opening session, and returned to Cairo to monitor the situation,” an official statement said.
The group, which was originally inspired by al-Qaeda but pledged allegiance to the IS in November 2014, has called on Egyptians to rebel against Sisi.
Sisi is the former military chief who led the crackdown on Egypt’s former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood which led to his ousting in 2013. The Brotherhood has said it rejects violence.
The Egyptian military said Thursday’s attacks were the result of “successful operations” carried out against militants by the security forces, and “the failure of Muslim Brotherhood... in spreading chaos on the fourth anniversary of the 25 January revolution” which was marked on Sunday.
The US condemned the attacks, saying it remained “steadfast in its support of the Egyptian government’s efforts to combat the threat of terrorism”.
Tensions have been raised across Egypt this week amid protests marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that ousted then-leader Hosni Mubarak.
On January 25, 2011, millions of Egyptians protested against then leader Hosni Mubarak, forcing him to step down.
North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint killed dozens of soldiers.
The attacks also prompted the authorities to build a buffer zone along the Gaza border to prevent militants infiltrating from the Palestinian enclave.
The army has launched major operations to try to quell violence in the region, but has so far failed. Sinai Province has become the biggest threat, staging many attacks on security targets.