Islamists kill 11 Egyptians in Sinai

The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed one officer and 10 Egyptian troops on Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula.

By Erin Viner

“Fighters killed Egyptian soldiers, seized their weapons and burned down their position in West Sinai,” said a statement posted on ISIS propaganda website Amaq the following day.

The Egyptian military said at least five other soldiers were wounded in a firefight with terrorists, who attacked troops guarding a pumping facility at a checkpoint on the road leading east from the Suez Canal to Hasanah in the center of northern Sinai, on Saturday morning, said two security sources.

Militants ambushed the troops with an explosive-rigged vehicle and fired heavy weapons installed on pick-up trucks, before military reinforcements fought them off and gave chase as they fled the site, said sources speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The terrorist elements are being pursued and besieged in an isolated area in Sinai,” Egyptian army spokesman Gharib Abdel Hafez announced in a statement.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi mourned the death of the troops in a post on Facebook and vowed to continue the campaign to “uproot terrorism.”

The incident marks the heaviest loss the army has suffered in years in its long-running campaign in and around the Sinai, which is hotbed of extremist activity.

While the armed insurgency has been ongoing for more than a decade, peaking after the ousting of Egypt’s Islamic President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, the frequency of attacks has waned since security forces launched a nationwide operation against militants focused on northern Sinai in February 2018. According to official data, more than 1,000 suspected militants and dozens of security personnel have been killed since the start of the operation.

Some civilian activity and the development of infrastructure has resumed in the areas where the Egyptian military effectively reasserted control over populated coastal areas of the northern Sinai, between the Gaza Strip in the east and the Suez Canal in the west.

Sporadic attacks have nevertheless continued with militants seeking refuge in desert expanses south of the coast and using different tactics such as sniping or planting explosives.

Primary targets by insurgents in recent years have been pipelines carrying Egyptian oil and gas to neighboring Israel and Jordan.