Islamic State: Militant attacks kill at least 36 in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
An unprecedented wave of Islamic State (IS) attacks on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula has killed at least 36 people — mostly troops — with the toll expected to rise, officials say.
Security sources said five military checkpoints and a police station were targeted by militants.
The dead included several civilians, according to security and medical officials, who said 38 militants were also killed as they battled soldiers and policemen in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.
The attacks were the most brazen in their scope since jihadists launched an insurgency in 2013 following the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
“It’s war. The battle is ongoing,” a senior military official said.
“It’s unprecedented, in the number of terrorists involved and the type of weapons they are using.”
In a blessed raid enabled by god, the lions of the caliphate have simultaneously attacked more than 15 checkpoints belonging to the apostate army.Islamic State group statement
Militants took over rooftops and fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police station in Sheikh Zuweid after mining its exits to block reinforcements, a police colonel said.
IS said its jihadists were surrounding the police station after launching the morning attacks on 15 checkpoints and security installations using suicide car bombers and rockets.
In a statement released online, IS said it had carried out the multi-pronged assault that involved three suicide bombers.
“In a blessed raid enabled by God, the lions of the caliphate have simultaneously attacked more than 15 checkpoints belonging to the apostate army,” the group said.
Security and medical officials said ambulances could not get to the scene of the attacks because of heavy fighting in which the military brought in Apache helicopters.
“Ambulances are waiting in front of the hospital,” a health official said.
“They can’t leave. People are bringing in the casualties.”
A medic said one woman killed in the clashes had been brought to hospital by civilians.
Islamic State claims attacks in online statement
Troops regularly come under attack in the Sinai, where jihadists have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow.
The most active militant group in the region is Sinai Province, which has pledged allegiance to IS.
IS urged its followers to escalate attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which started in mid-June, though it did not specify Egypt as a target.
The attacks came two days after the country’s top public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo.
He was the most senior government official killed in the jihadist insurgency.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged to toughen laws and suggested fast-track executions following Mr Barakat’s death, and a cabinet meeting on Wednesday was expected to pass the amendments.
The government designated Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist group” in December 2013, as part of a crackdown on the opposition that has left hundreds of his supporters dead and thousands in jail.
Courts have sentenced hundreds to death, including Morsi, who was convicted of involvement in attacks on police stations.
His sentence is being appealed.