15 militants, 12 soldiers killed in Sinai IS attack
ISMAILIA, Egypt: Militants killed 12 members of Egypt’s military in North Sinai province and wounded six more in an attack on a checkpoint yesterday, the military said, adding that it killed 15 militants in return. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the incident, which took place 40 km from the town of Bir al-Abd, making it the first major attack in the central Sinai area, which had so far escaped the militants’ campaign.
It was carried out using assault rifles and some heavier weapons, medical and security sources said. The wounded were taken to hospital in Al-Arish. “An armed group of terrorist elements attacked a security checkpoint in North Sinai this morning using four-wheel drives and were immediately engaged. Our forces killed 15 terrorists,” the military said in a statement. “The clashes led to the martyrdom of 12 and injury of six armed forces heroes.” Islamic State said it killed more than 20 soldiers and that it suffered no casualties. It said its members looted weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said in a brief statement later yesterday that the latest attack would only strengthen Egypt’s resolve to continue the “battle for building and survival”. The attack was the latest in what appears to be a surge in the number of operations launched by the militants as well as a wave of IS kidnappings and subsequent killings of Sinai’s local residents suspected of collaborating with security forces battling the militants.
Egypt has battled militants in Sinai for years, but the insurgency in the rugged and thinly populated peninsula gained pace in mid-2013. The militant group staging the insurgency pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 and adopted the name Sinai Province. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen, and has started to target Western targets within Egypt. However, there has been a dramatic fall in recent months in the number of attacks on mainland Egypt that have been claimed by the IS. A previously unheard of group, “Hasm”, or “Decisiveness”, seems to have taken the lead in those attacks. It claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination in recent weeks in Cairo of a top prosecutor and a former mufti, or chief theologian.