Egypt’s Sinai rocked by wave of deadly attacks

More than 70 “terrorists” targeted five checkpoints around the town Sheikh Zuweid, a military spokesman said.

Thirty-nine attackers were killed and three pick-uptrucks armed with anti-aircraft guns were destroyed, he added.

Clashes are continuing in the area, with militants reportedly besieging Sheikh Zuweid’s main police station.

Islamic State’s local affiliate, Sinai Province, said in a statement posted online that it had targeted 15 security sites and carried out three suicide attacks.

The assault is one of the biggest since jihadists based in Sinai stepped up their attacks after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi two years ago. At least 600 police and armed forces personnel have since been killed.

Wednesday’s attacks came two days after the assassination of Egypt’s public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, in the capital Cairo.

In a speech at Mr Barakat’s funeral on Tuesday, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi promised legal reforms to ensure death sentences could be enforced more swiftly for those convicted of acts of terrorism.

On Wednesday morning, dozens of militants fired mortar rounds and detonated acar bomb in near simultaneous assaults on checkpoints in the Sheikh Zuweid area of North Sinai province, military spokesman Brig-Gen Mohammed Samir said.

He put the number of casualties at 10, which conflicted with earlier reports.

Security and army officials told the Associated Press that at least 50 troops had been killed and 55 wounded, and that several had also been taken captive.

Two checkpoints were completely destroyed, one by a suicide car bomb blast and the other by mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, they added.

Gen Samir said clashes were continuing in area between troops and the militants.

Officials told AP that dozens of policemen were inside Sheikh Zuweid’s main police station, which they said was coming under mortar- and RPG-fire.

North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint in El-Arish left dozens of soldiers dead.

Police and army patrols have been increased and additional checkpoints have been set up. In addition, a buffer zone along the border with Gaza has been created by demolishing houses and destroying underground tunnels the military says have been used to smuggle weapons from the Palestinian enclave.

Analysts said the car bomb attack in Cairo that killed Mr Barakat bore the hallmarks of Sinai Province. The group was known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis until it pledged allegiance to Islamic State in November and changed its name.

Hours after President Sisi’s speech on Tuesday, a soldier was shot dead outside a museum in southern Cairo and three suspected militants were killed when a car in which they were travelling blew up near a police station in a western suburb.




 




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