Possible IS jihadists kill 17 in Sinai
Jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai killed 15 soldiers and two civilians in attacks on checkpoints on Thursday, security officials said, the deadliest in months despite a massive army campaign against the insurgents.
The gunmen, believed to be members of the Islamic State (IS) group’s Egypt branch, simultaneously opened fire with assault rifles and grenade launchers at five checkpoints in the restive north of the peninsula, the security officials said.
Medics confirmed 15 soldiers and two civilians were killed in the attacks.
Military sources said 15 militants also died in an exchange of fire but the toll could not be verified by medics.
It was the deadliest attack in Sinai since suicide car bombers and gunmen killed more than 30 soldiers at a military base in North Sinai’s capital El-Arish in January, prompting Egypt’s president to shakeup the military command.
The army has since claimed it killed more than 170 militants in air strikes and ambushes.
Thursday’s attacks suggested the jihadists were still capable of conducting large scale attacks in broad daylight despite a massive army deployment.
In a separate incident, a mortar shell fell on a house east of El-Arish, wounding three civilians, police and health officials said.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — Partisans of Jerusalem in English — changed its name last year to the Sinai Province after pledging allegiance to IS, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria.
The group, which has claimed several sophisticated attacks in Sinai and the Nile valley, now wants to establish a province of the selfdeclared IS “caliphate.”