EL-ARISH – A car bomb followed by fierce gunfire was unleashed on a military checkpoint in northeastern Sinai Peninsula on Friday, leaving 10 Egyptian security troops including a special forces colonel dead and wounding at least 20, authorities said.
The officials said the blitz attack started when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint at a military compound in the southern Rafah village of el-Barth, followed by heavy gunfire from dozens of masked militants on foot.
The dead included a high ranking special forces officer, Col. Ahmed el-Mansi, and at least 20 others were wounded in the attack. Sirens of ambulances were heard from a distance as they rushed to the site of the attack.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Egypt in recent years has been battling a stepped-up insurgency in northern Sinai, mainly by militants from an Islamic State group affiliate.
Army spokesman Tamer el-Rifai declined to immediately comment when reached by The Associated Press.
Over the past months, ISIS has focused its attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority and carried out at least four deadly attacks that killed dozens, prompting army chief-turned-President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the country.
The Sinai branch of the Islamic States group appears to be the most resilient outside Syria and Iraq, where the so-called caliphate is witnessing its demise.
The group’s offshoot in Libya has been uprooted in months-long battles in the central city of Sirte while its branch in Yemen has failed to seize territories or compete with its al-Qaida rivals.